Calif. Gov. Scales Back High-Speed Rail Project

The proposed high-speed rail line in California has received a slow order from the state’s governor.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his recent state-of-the-state speech that although he remains committed to the project, he is scaling it back to operate only for 160 miles in the Central Valley.

The original plan had been to link Los Angeles and San Francisco.

That scaled-back project is now projected to be built between Merced and Bakersfield.

In his address, Newsom cited cost overruns in making his decision. The project cost had been put at $64 billion but has increased to $77.3 billion with completion not expected until 2033.

By then Newsom will be out of office, a fact that might also have played a role in his thinking.

Newsom said the project has had “little oversight and not enough transparency.”

Newsom also said the line lacks a clear path to get between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Nonetheless, he said he will continue to lobby for federal and private funding for the entire rail line.
“We’re going to make high-speed rail a reality for California,” Newsom later said on Twitter. “We have the capacity to complete the rail between Merced and Bakersfield. We will continue our regional projects north and south. Finish Phase 1 enviro work. Connect the Central Valley to other parts of the state.”

Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett said Newsom’s focus on the Central also includes a commitment to help fund Caltrain’s electrification project.

“The state’s high-speed rail project is required to provide $713 million toward Caltrain’s $2 billion project to electrify the rail corridor and replace most of the commuter-rail system’s aging diesel trains with a new electric fleet that will reduce travel times, improve train frequency, and increase systemwide capacity,” Hartnett said.

That project, which is already underway, is expected to be finished in 2022.

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