Southern California breaking news and trends

Catching a runaway train: The race to keep funding for CA's high-speed rail

Courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority

A rendering of what a high-speed rail train would look like traversing California's desert.

The first 130-mile segment of the proposed California high-speed rail line must be completed by September 2017 in order to not risk losing federal funding, reports the L.A. Times.

At a projected cost of $6 billion, California would be spending up to $3.5 million every day, including weekends and holidays, to finish by deadline, while the California High-Speed Rail Authority will need to acquire approximately 120 permits and 1,100 parcels of land and mobilize a massive workforce.

It would be "the fastest rate of transportation construction known in U.S. history, according to industry and academic experts," says the Times.

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Working on the railroad: Bullet-train consultant questioned over biz ties

Courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority

A rendering of what a high-speed rail train would look like traversing California's desert.

Frank Koppelman, a $400 per hour consultant with the California bullet train project, once worked for Cambridge Systematics Inc., the company that prepares the ridership estimates he was hired to assess for the rail authority. 

Koppelman, who reportedly has a close relationship with a top Cambridge executive, worked for the company on a pair of projects before taking his job with the CA High-Speed Rail Authority in 2010, says the L.A. Times

Critics say the ridership estimates from Cambridge are not accurate but Koppelman's panel concluded that the Cambridge estimates are reliable.

The consultant reportedly told the Times that his objectivity was not compromised because of connections to Cambridge, explaining that most experts in travel forecasting would have similar business ties.

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Jerry Brown cuts $30B in costs from high-speed rail project

Courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority

A rendering of what a high-speed rail train would look like traversing California's desert.

The price tag for California's ambitious high-speed rail project has dropped to $68.4 billion, a $30 billion decline over a highly criticized draft released last fall, a source familiar with the plan confirmed late Friday.

The first full section of track will now stretch from Merced to the San Fernando Valley, a significant expansion of the initial phase that eliminates the so-called "train to nowhere" between two small Central Valley cities.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority had scheduled a news conference for Monday to announce its updated business plan, but The Sacramento Bee reported some of the key details late Friday night.

A source familiar with the plan who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly confirmed the drop in price and relayed other elements of the updated plan to The Associated Press.

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