San Jose Mercury News

High-speed rail price tag soars again, this time on pace to surpass $60 billion
San Jose Mercury News

For the second time since voters approved California’s massive bullet train project, the state on Tuesday raised the total price tag for the first stretch by several billion dollars — and now the cost for the entire rail line is on pace to skyrocket to an eye-popping $60 billion to $80 billion or even more.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s new cost estimates released Tuesday show the initial stretch of construction between Merced and Bakersfield will cost $10 billion to $13.9 billion depending on how it’s built. Project planners had previously pegged the section at $6.8 billion.

If the cost of the entire project balloons at the same pace as the Central Valley section, the San Francisco-to-Anaheim railroad would cost from $63 billion to $87 billion, similar to what independent analysts have been predicting. And those figures do not include inflation, which could push the final cost toward a staggering $100 billion.

When California voters approved the project in 2008, the state said it would cost $33 billion, but it soared to $43 billion a year later — already making it the single largest public works project in the nation. Even now, the state only has about one-fourth of the money needed to fund the entire rail line and no clear plan on how to secure the rest.