What is the Future of the California High Speed Rail System?

Jul 21, 2016

Californians have voted for the rail system but haven’t figured out how to pay for it.

The California High Speed Rail System is a high speed bullet train that, if built, would link the major cities in California with what the Los Angeles Times calls “a faster, cleaner, more modern transportation system.” Los Angeles Times

Californians voted in favor of the project, which was proposed as a “commercially viable” alternative to the state’s notoriously congested, smog bound highway system.

This is not to say that there has not been a great deal of criticism of the project. There has; mostly related to its enormous cost, exacerbated by the technical and engineering challenges associated with crossing the Tehachapi mountains near Los Angeles.

The California High Speed Rail Authority estimates the project will cost $64 billion.

To reduce the cost of getting started, the Rail Authority has proposed constructing the northern segment first because it’s less expensive than the southern segment. This means, however, that service to Los Angeles will be delayed, and, some fear, will never materialize.

According to the L.A. Times, “the new plan…provides a clear path to building the line just from downtown San Jose to the Central Valley, which it [the Rail Authority] says it will complete by 2025. In fact, the authority hasn’t secured the money to build the route between two sizeable cities; instead the funds and the rail would peter out in some farmland near Shafter, about 20 miles north of Bakersfield. “

The Rail Authority proposes going forward with construction believing the State will find a way to come up with money to finish the project. This is a recipe for financial disaster.

If the project is successful, it will create an enormous amount of work for a great many contractors and their employees for 10 years.  This would stimulate the State’s economy.

But if the Rail Authority runs out of money mid-project and reneges on its contracts construction companies and their employees could face financial ruin. Unless, of course, the State covers the financial shortfall.

Neither of these scenarios would benefit Californians.

The Los Angeles Times’ concerns are well founded and should be heeded by State officials.


Editorial. Who is going to pay for the bullet train to L.A.? The Times Editorial Board. Contact Reporter, The Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2016