I’ve already expressed my fondness for high-speed rail. California’s fumbling and bumbling is not making my love affair easy, however. The San Jose Mercury News reports this morning that planning costs are going up, again, for a system that is currently going nowhere:
California rail leaders said Tuesday it will cost an extra $97 million in office and field work to design the rail line, which has famously seen its construction cost double to $69 billion since voters approved it five years ago. The extra state and federal funds set aside for planning will wind up in the pockets of private consulting firms, including some that earn billions of dollars in annual revenue.
Rail officials say much of the latest increase is because of delays to the project’s aggressive timeline and the need to study alternative plans aimed at appeasing concerns of communities along the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles rail corridor.
For instance, the California High-Speed Rail Authority board Thursday is set to approve an extra $38 million for mega-firm URS to work on clearing state and federal bureaucratic hurdles required before construction can begin in the Central Valley this summer. That $158 million effort dates back six years and was supposed to be done by now, but has been delayed because residents between Fresno and Bakersfield have asked the state to study different locations to lay tracks, a time-consuming and costly endeavor.
Rail officials say the new pre-construction planning budget of $878 million, while an increase of 12 percent, is still within the limit approved by voters in 2008.
California has botched this thing from the get go and I would rather have them scrap it then move forward with a plan that will fail, souring Californians and most Americans on high-speed rail for the foreseeable future. The Governor and lawmakers need an intervention.