Central Valley bullet train costs anticipated to increase by $1.8 billion to $12.4 billion

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Road 27 grade sep in Madera County, part of the HSR spine. Photo: CAHSRA

California’s Central Valley bullet train cost projections have increased to $12.4 billion, state rail authority staff say in an internal report, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Staff made the estimates for the 119-mile section in advance of a project update that the rail authority is scheduled to release to the state legislature on May 8, “detailing a plan by Gov. Gavin Newsom to build a partial high-speed system” from Bakersfield to Merced, the published report says.

The cost of building a 119-mile section of the California bullet train in the Central Valley is projected to increase by $1.8 billion, according an internal draft report by the state rail authority’s staff.

The estimate was made in preparation for a project update that the rail authority is scheduled to release to the Legislature on Wednesday, detailing Newsom’s plan to build a partial high-speed system running from Bakersfield to Merced.

The overall cost of building the partial system, including the $12.4 billion segment under construction, would reach $20.4 billion. The anticipated completion would be between 2026 and 2030.

Despite the cost increases for the segment under construction, the overall project will be significantly less than the $77 billion originally expected to complete the rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Gov. Newsom says the complete north-south system has no funding or realistic completion plan.

The much smaller Central Valley project raises questions, such as its construction cost, schedule, ridership and operating costs versus revenues, the newspaper reported. “The staff report and a parallel one by Deutsche Bahn Engineering and Consulting, which is advising the state under its role as the “early train operator,” outlined some of the challenges to Newsom’s plan.”

The $1.8-billion cost increase covers bridges, viaducts, trenches and roadbed from Madera to Wasco, a distance of 119 miles. That includes $477 million for actual cost increases, $362 million for increases in scope of the project and nearly $1 billion for additional contingencies to manage risk.

Originally, the rail authority had planned to build about 130 miles of track from Madera to Bakersfield for about $6 billion.

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