CA Gov. Jerry Brown backs over-budget bullet train in final address
- In his final State of the State speech, Gov. Jerry Brown continued to extol the benefits of the California High-Speed Rail Authority's now-$67 billion bullet train project, even though the cost is significantly over budget and the project is behind schedule, according to KPIX.
- Brown told lawmakers that cost overruns and lawsuits are just part of the process, and that many other major pieces of state infrastructure, like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, both in San Francisco, also faced challenges while they were being built. After Brown's speech, lawmakers from both parties said the high-speed rail project needs more oversight.
- There are 18 high-speed rail construction sites in the state's Central Valley, including one in downtown Fresno, where crews have been engaged in foundation and concrete work, creating approximately 1,600 construction jobs.
Public pressure for a full project audit, as well as calls for a complete work stoppage from some critics, has grown since the CHSRA announced that the Central Valley portion of the high-speed rail system had incurred nearly $3 billion in additional costs, driving that portion's price tag up by 35% and the entire project cost to $67 billion. In 2008, when voters approved the measure to fund the rail project through the sale of bonds, the estimated cost was $40 billion. The extra money for the Central Valley leg was largely due to entering into construction contracts before the land was secured.
State Republicans have consistently called for an audit of the project because the extra costs started piling up, and California's GOP delegation in Congress even tried to block funding for a related rail electrification project on the grounds that there should be a full inspection of the CHSRA's records before the federal government paid for any project that could benefit the bullet train.
Now Democrats have joined the push for a full project examination. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that state Senator Jim Beall, a Democrat and chairman of the state Senate transportation committee, co-authored a letter — with a Republican — addressed to the California Assembly's joint audit committee asking for a full review.
Meanwhile, in a joint editorial, The Mercury News and East Bay Times cast doubt on the CHSRA's ability to deliver the project, and called on the state to pull the plug or at least perform a full audit before continuing on.
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