High speed rail

Will a new oversight position help California’s high speed rail plans get on track?
After a decade of cost, schedule, technical, regulatory, personnel and legal problems, the California high speed rail project will be getting an inspector general soon as part of a deal between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature. The new investigative position is intended to intensify oversight and improve performance of the $105 billion railroad project. Enthusiasm for the change is high, but whether it will fix everything is uncertain, even among state leaders…

In 2012, the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommended against an appropriation to start construction, arguing the California High-Speed Rail Authority wasn’t prepared. Gov. Jerry Brown lobbied the Legislature for it and won. Now, many agree the LAO was right. The Peer Review Group has long warned that the state needs a secure financing plan. But the project proceeds without one…

Even while increasing oversight, the deal doubles down on the bullet train mission. An appropriation will release $4.2 billion from a 2008 bond fund, but only for completing a 171-mile Central Valley segment from Bakersfield to Merced.


The California High-Speed Rail Authority is missing out after the Biden administration announced funding for nine transportation projects and California’s bullet train wasn’t on the list…

The two grant applications totaled over $1 billion in federal funding. So does that hurt the so-called train to nowhere?

Some of that money would have been allocated toward new stations, and trains linking Merced to Bakersfield. Currently, 119 miles of track are under construction. The grant money could’ve accelerated the extension to 171.


High Speed Rail Authority officials on Thursday could not provide an estimated completion date for the original vision pitched to voters but said the price tag for the entire project is now up to $128 billion, a 13% increase from last year’s projections.

Construction is currently focused on a segment in the Central Valley…The Central Valley segment also faces 41% in cost increases compared to last year’s estimates, now expected to cost up to $35.3 billion.


Ridership estimates have dropped 25%.

Changing commuter patterns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and sluggish expectations for population growth in California are driving down forecasts for ridership on the state’s future high-speed rail project.

In a report due to the state Legislature on Wednesday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority unveiled the latest incarnation of its ridership projections for its Merced-Bakersfield section, anticipated to be the first interim operating segment for electric bullet trains. The new numbers represent a significant drop in the anticipated number of passengers for the first year of service when — or if — operations become reality sometime between 2030 and 2033.

…the Merced-Bakersfield segment — which includes construction now under way in the central San Joaquin Valley — the expectation for overall train ridership in the Valley dipped from almost 8.8 million passengers per year forecast in a 2019-2020 financial plan to about 6.6 million in the 2023 project update.