- Costs for the first phase of the California High-Speed Rail Authority's bullet train have increased by $2.8 billion, or 35%, to $10.6 billion, driving the price tag for the entire project to approximately $67 billion, according to the Associated Press. When voters approved bond financing for the project back in 2008, the authority estimated total costs at $40 billion.
- Some of the cost increase was a result of the authority entering into construction contracts before securing the rights of way necessary to begin work on the project. However, the agency said it needed to make a move on the contracts in order to meet a Sep. 30, 2017 deadline, according to The Orange County Register, for spending $2.5 billion of Obama-era federal stimulus funds.
- This latest announcement has renewed calls for the state legislature to initiate an audit of the authority. Meanwhile, state lawmakers await an official update from the authority on the project's costs and schedule via an updated business plan, which is due this spring.
Tutor Perini and Dragados-Flatiron are two of the contractors the authority likely engaged too early in the construction process. In March 2017, the two companies claimed that delays in land purchases and mismanagement on the part of the authority had pushed their costs up by $300 million. In June 2016, the Authority issued Tutor Perini a change order for $63 million, covering $50 million in delays and $13.6 million in schedule acceleration costs. The authority also extended Tutor Perini's contract by 17 months.
The authority's struggles are sure to serve as lessons for other organizations attempting to build high-speed rail projects in the U.S.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a draft environmental review last month for the proposed $15 billion Houston-Dallas high-speed rail line, putting the system one step closer to construction. A series of public meetings are scheduled to answer questions about the FRA's report, which includes a preferred route and the location of rail stations, according to The Dallas Morning News.
However, developer Texas Central Partners has also experienced pushback from landowners while attempting to acquire the land necessary to make the project a reality. In fact, in preparation for the public comment period, advocacy group Texans Against High Speed Rail has been encouraging landowners in the train's path to participate in public meetings, send impact statements to the FRA, and provide any information on the rail's potential effect on endangered species, according to KBTX-TV, most likely in an effort to trigger additional studies, which would slow the project down.