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New Plan for CA's Biggest Infrastructure Project
$44 billion Cost Overrun Thus Far


At the Fresno, Calif., trench, crews are excavating deeper beneath State Route 180. April 2018 photo: California High-Speed Rail Authority

On May 14, 2018, a new business plan for the California High-Speed Rail project was approved by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) and a completion date set for ... 2033!

Such a long horizon date gives one pause. You can't help but tally how old you'll be in that distant future, and imagine, given the leaps and bounds in technology, what the world will look like in '33. "Yes, iRobot, of course I want you to do all my work today."

The Authority is planning, designing, building and will operate the high-speed rail project. The first phase of the project, the line from Los Angeles to San Francisco, was originally scheduled for completion in 2029. It has overrun the initial cost estimate by $44 billion. To complete the new plan in 2033, the Authority projects it will have to spend $4.6 billion a year. Whence the money?

One imagines walking from L.A. to S.F., a trek that might take 20 days or so at a moderate pace. Granted that's pretty slow as travel goes, but it would be 15 years ahead of the bullet train debut.

Kind of makes one nostalgic for the "good" ol' days, like May 10, 1869, when the final track was laid and the golden spike driven in at Promontory, Utah, signaling the completion of the transcontinental railroad. That western section covered 2,000 miles and took just 6 years to build. Six years! That project of course required many thousands of workers. When the Central Pacific unit began laying track through the granite rock of the Sierra Nevada in California in 1865, it employed 10,000 men (8,000 were Chinese).

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August 22, 2019, 1:17 am PDT

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