Non-partisan analysts want Califonia lawmakers to put brakes on high-speed rail

Courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority

Will the new plan for high-speed rail in California lead to an earlier completion date?

There are some new bumps in the road, or in the rails, for the plan to bring bullet trains to California.

Just last week California’s High-Speed Rail Authority approved a revised business plan that cut the costs of the project by $30 billion. But the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office still isn’t sold on the idea.

The new cost estimate is $68 billion, but so far the high-speed rail board has secured just $9 billion, using bond funds approved by the voters. They've received another $3.5 billion in federal grants.

Not good enough, says the LAO. It calls the funding “highly speculative" and suggests that other important details are still missing.

The report asks lawmakers to reject a request for $2.5 billion in bond funds to build track in the Central Valley. It also wants them to turn down another request, asking for $1 billion to upgrade commuter rails and conduct environmental reviews.

One small hope for high-speed rail remains in that the report says lawmakers should allocate some money to “continue planning.”

Meanwhile, a Senate committee recently passed a bill after the report was issued that will set aside $1.5 billion for local rail upgrades.

The money comes from Prop 1A, which authorized improvements to rail systems that will someday connect to the high-speed trains.

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