- Chairman of the California Senate transportation committee Sen. James Beall Jr. says he intends to call for oversight hearings on the California High Speed Rail Authority's management performance, construction schedules and cost estimates for the 220-mph bullet train that will eventually link Los Angeles with San Francisco, the Los Angeles Times reported.
- Beall says the goal of the hearings, the first significant legislative oversight of the bullet train project in four years, is to determine how to hasten completion and to reduce costs, the Times reported.
- Beall's move, spurred on by a 2015 Times investigation into alleged cost estimate discrepancies, comes after a joint state legislative committee refused to authorize an audit last week. The California state auditor has not examined the project for four years.
Sen. Andy Vidak requested the state audit and says the Legislature's refusal is because leading Democrats fear that negative findings might jeopardize the first phase of the rail project, which is key to attracting the private money necessary to complete the system, the Times reported. The last audit raised warnings about a wide range of potential risks and recommended the project needed additional oversight.
Beall says he won't call for hearings until after the authority releases its 2016 business plan in the coming weeks, the Times reported. The plan is expected to address the funding shortfalls the authority has experienced, as well as land purchase failures and other sources of delays.
The California State Assembly budget committee is also holding a hearing next week in response to an unpublished Parsons Brinckerhoff cost estimate uncovered in the Times investigation. The report concluded that the rail project would cost $9 billion more than the authority told the legislature during the approval process, but was never made public.