High-Speed Rail Officials Seek to Reassure Lawmakers

Rendering of high-speed rail train.  (Courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority)

The cost of California’s high-speed rail project is not increasing. That was the message from rail officials during an Assembly oversight hearing today.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority spent much of the hearing pushing back on a recent L.A. Times article reporting cost estimates for the first phase of the $68 billion project had increased 31 percent.

Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales said that’s not accurate.

“There was no 31 percent increase in the cost of the program,” he said. “We did not withhold information about a cost increase in the program because there was no increase in the program.”

Rail officials will soon release an updated business plan. They insist it will show project costs are actually dropping.

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Still, political skepticism persists. Democrat Richard Gordon of Los Altos says he hopes the business plan will address the true cost of constructing tunnels for the project.

"There is no more challenging effort than a tunneling project and the cost related to that and potential cost overruns," he said.

Fresno Republican Jim Patterson pressed for definite cost and timeline projections.

"You are representing to the people of the state of California that you have high levels of confidence both in the $68 billion ultimate price tag and in getting this project in on time?" he asked.

Rail Authority Board Chair Dan Richard said that, based on what he knows today, he believes the project will come in under budget. But he says it may take longer than anticipated.