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State Insists High-Speed Rail Remains On Track

California High-Speed Rail / Flickr
 

California High-Speed Rail / Flickr

After appearing to pick up steam this year, California's ambitious high-speed rail project hit a snag this week. Opponents are accusing the High-Speed Rail Authority of hiding higher cost estimates. The state insists that costs remain on track, although the trains may not be ready to run on time.

A Los Angeles Times article contends the project is unworkable, partially due to what it calls a “confidential 2013 report” from consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff. The report estimates the cost of the project’s first leg at $8 billion above the state’s projection. That’s lit a fire under opponents, from Republican lawmakers to Stuart Flashman, an attorney suing the Rail Authority.

"That should have been in the business plan because it’s basically saying if things don’t go well, this is what it could cost," says Flashman.

The Rail Authority also initially denied media and legal requests for the report- which is actually a 20-page slideshow, marked "draft."

Board Chairman Dan Richard says political opponents are taking it out of context.

"We should be held accountable for the numbers that we publish and say 'we’re going to build it for this,'" says Richard. "If it starts to go awry, and they want to hang me out by my thumbs, or our CEO, that’s fine."

Richard says the project’s $68 billion estimate still stands. The promised 2022 opening, however, could be delayed.The Authority will publish revised time and cost estimates next year.

"I’m not saying this will be some five-year slip," he says. "It’s not like I’m sitting on a secret PowerPoint somewhere that says it’s really going to be 2036."