Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Your (California) high-speed choo-choo update

Well, that didn't take long. From $43 billion to $68 billion to nearly $100 billion?

The new business plan for California's high-speed rail system shows the nation's most ambitious state rail project could cost nearly $100 billion in inflation-adjusted funding over a 20-year construction period, far above the amount originally projected.

The plan, which was shared late Monday with The Associated Press, also shows the system would be profitable even at the lowest ridership estimates and would not require public subsidies to operate.

The report estimates the actual cost at $98.5 billion if the route between San Francisco and Anaheim is completed in 2033. It assumes private investment will account for roughly 20 percent of the final cost.

The initial estimate to build the system when voters approved bond funding for it in 2008 was $43 billion in non-adjusted dollars.

So, let's get this straight: the same geniuses who are telling us the system will be profitable and won't require subsidies (just a reminder: even assuming this apocryphal 20% private investment ever materializes, the construction is in itself being subsidized to the tune of $80 billion dollars of California tax-payer money. We have a sneaking suspicion that 80 bil is not being factored into what it will take to defer the operating costs once this turkey goes live) have, in just 3 years, ballooned the original estimate by a factor of well over 2. Just a couple of data points to be sure, but that's not a favorable trend when it comes time to settling the final tab.

A couple of other key points to remember: they have completely underestimated what it will take to build the initial portion of the track... the easy part... out in the middle of the Central Valley between those bustling, bursting-at-the-seams metropolises of Corcoran and Borden

Building tracks for the first section of California's proposed high-speed rail line will cost $2.9 billion to $6.8 billion more than originally estimated, raising questions about the affordability of the nation's most ambitious rail project at a time when its planning and finances are under fire.

And this:

And the plan would require some ambitious engineering. Tunnels would stretch miles. Trains would soar over cities atop viaducts six stories tall. Three mountain ranges would be crossed. The zigzagging route would gobble up homes, businesses and farmland

Again, they've completely bunged up estimates out in the flat expanses of California's farmlands. Wait 'til they start engineering and constructing their way over the mountains to the north of Los Angeles and think of how much eminent domain fun they are going to have in some of the tonier communities up in the Bay Area.

Any takers that $100 billion price estimate is going to hold steady?

Yeah, we didn't think so.

As we are fond of saying: we already have high-speed rail here in California. It's called the commuter flight.


Harrison said...

It will double from here. Promise.

Just like the SF Bay Bridge.

Negocios Loucos said...

I strenuously object BWD! You are not counting the benefits that really they are bashfully not telling you about. The new rail system will:
1. increase life expectancy of Californians by an average of 15 years per person
2. end poverty as we know it in the state
3. not only create hundreds of thousands of permanent jobs in California but create billions of jobs worldwide
4. will actually un-extinct animals. Animals that were extinct will actually come back to life and thrive.
5. will result in the development of thousands of square miles of new old growth forests in the state
6. will bring peace, equality and happiness to all……

Road Dawg said...

Dude, I'm all in now! Where do I sign up.....oh, it's already coming out of my paycheck so I don't even feel the pinch, even better.

Secular Apostate said...

Just for the record, the Transcontinental Railroad between Omaha NE and Oakland CA took only SIX years to build. And it took that long because the Civil War was going on and labor was in short supply.

Dean said...

... and 2 or 3 (Wasatch?) mountain ranges to traverse as well as some of the most remote territory (got logistics support?).