Though underway, $77B California bullet train still threatened
- The California High Speed Rail Authority is chugging away with construction of the $77 billion San Francisco Bay Area-to-Los Angeles bullet train near Fresno, California, despite opposition from an increasing number of state residents, lack of funding, rising costs that could reach $100 billion, looming tunneling challenges and an upcoming gubernatorial election that could put a project foe in a position to kill the whole thing, according to The New York Times.
- Approximately 2,000 workers are manning 21 high-speed rail-related construction sites, including one where crews are building an overpass and three others where viaduct segments will reportedly be ready to go in a few weeks. Project officials still have no surefire plan to raise money beyond the approximately $28 billion of cash it has on hand, according to reports. Detractors say this amount is neither enough to pay for the first segment nor the remaining cost and logistical challenges of tunneling through a mountain range north of Los Angeles. According to a survey from earlier this year, California voters have grown tired of ever-rising costs and numerous delay announcements and many don't think additional taxpayer dollars should be invested in the project.
- The rail's biggest hurdle, however, could come in the guise of a new governor who could oppose the project and pull the plug. Some onlookers say the reason that the authority is pushing so hard to finish portions of the bullet train line is so that it will be more difficult for the incoming administration to give up on it. Democrat Gavin Newsom, front-runner and current lieutenant governor, has expressed concern about the project's costs and other challenges, while Republican candidate John Cox has vowed to stop construction if elected in November.
In 2011, Florida Gov. Rick Scott turned down the same $2.5 billion stimulus package that California took as part of his complete rejection of a high-speed train between Tampa and Orlando. However, Scott is now backing a plan that would lay all the potential risks of such a transportation project at the doorstep of a private partner, Brightline. The company, which is building a rail system that should eventually connect South Florida to Orlando, offered to lease easements and rights of way from the state and build a high-speed connection between downtown Tampa and Orlando International Airport.
Texas Central Partners have also promised that the $15 billion high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston will not be funded by taxpayers. Construction on that system could start as early as next year. Infrastructure experts like Bechtel, Fluor, WSP and Lane Construction are part of the project team.
- The New York Times A $100 Billion Train: The Future of California or a Boondoggle?
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