The California High-Speed Rail Authority today released an updated business plan announcing that a rail line between San Francisco and Southern California would cost double than the previous estimate with a completion date of 2033.
The updated draft estimates the new cost of the project to be $98.5 billion. The agency previously had estimated a cost of $43 billion and a shorter construction term.
The new plan outlines a phased approach to construction, updates cost estimates, ridership figures and funding expectations to reflect the current economic state.
Construction is set to begin next year with a 130-mile segment from just north of Bakersfield to just south of Merced. The funding for this piece, which will serve as the “backbone” of the system, has already been identified through federal funds and the voter-approved Proposition 1A, according to the authority.
Several elected officials, as well as labor and transportation groups, reacted positively to the revised plan.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said the project would create more than 105,000 construction jobs for the San Jose to San Francisco route and hundreds of thousands more jobs from the San Jose to Merced section.
“Business travelers, commuters and tourists will all benefit from high-speed connections between our state’s economic centers and tourist destinations,” Reed said.
Both Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee agreed with Reed and said aside from creating jobs, building a rail system would improve mobility.
Villaraigosa said while the new plan is being reviewed, it is important to keep in mind “the big picture.”
“Go to China and see what they’re doing. Go to Europe and go to other places in the world,” he said. “We got to catch up and we got to make the right investments now.”
Lee said high-speed rail would generate up to $8.9 billion in construction infrastructure spending in the Bay Area and up to 128,000 local jobs.
The system would also “get commuters and travelers out of the skies and onto the rails, relieving airport congestion and benefiting the economy and the environment,” Lee said.
The new plan “will save taxpayers billions of dollars while being responsive to the many concerns of my constituents,” U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a statement.
Eshoo, who along with state Sen. Joe Simitian and Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, authored a blended system proposal to integrate high-speed rail with Caltrain, said the plan included some of the proposal’s provisions.
U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, along with state Sen. Joe Simitian and Assemblyman Rich Gordon, is proposing a blended system that would integrate high-speed rail with Caltrain, and Eshoo said the plan includes some of the proposal’s provisions.
Gordon, however, was less enthusiastic about the new plan. He said the state’s fiscal crisis should be addressed before incurring additional debt from high-speed rail.
“Perhaps, at this time, we should invest our limited government resources and utilize our limited borrowing capacity to repair our existing infrastructure,” Gordon said. “In that way we put people back to work without accumulating massive debt to the State of California.”
State Sen. Darrell Steinberg called the plan “a tough and honest assessment” and said the investment would ultimately pay off in the creation of thousands of jobs in California.
“Whether or not we choose to build out this system, our state will need to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure to accommodate our growth,” he said.
The public will have 60 days to assess the costs and benefits of the project. The final plan is scheduled to be completed and submitted to the legislature in January.
The plan can be accessed online at:
Khalida Sarwari, Bay City News