I have chronicled the saga of the California bullet train and its construction since 2012.

A report obtained by The Los Angeles Times confirms my concerns about the project’s fiscal drain on our state. The review shows that this monstrosity will cost $3.6 billion more than original budget projection.

A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by The Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion.

The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won’t happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule.

Even more disturbing is that the estimated overrun is merely for the easiest leg of the track to be constructed. I shudder to think about how many more taxpayer dollars will be squandered to build the entire system.

Officials overseeing this project are quick to dismiss the report:

The rail authority’s chief executive, Jeff Morales, insisted to the Times that the project would cost less than the feds projected.

“The point of doing this analysis is to identify the challenges and work through them,” he said. “They are not conclusions and not findings.”

Governor Jerry Brown, who treats this train as a pet project, has been publicly opposing the policies and authority of President-Elect Donald Trump. So, it will be fascinating to see what happens when the bullet train budget hits the desk of the incoming federal administrator.

The Federal Railroad Administration is tracking the project because it has extended $3.5 billion in two grants to help build the Central Valley segment. The administration has an obligation to ensure that the state complies with the terms, including a requirement that the state has the funding to match the federal grants.

The railroad administration’s analysis shows that the state authority could lose $220 million in one of the federal grants this year if it cannot submit paperwork by June 30, to meet the Sept. 30 deadline of the Obama administration’s stimulus act.

Trump has experience in building structures under budget and ahead of schedule. I suspect his appointments will take the same approach, which will mean that the consultants, bureaucrats, and politically-connected appointees associated with the California bullet train will be under the microscope shortly after Jan. 20.

I suspect that the California bullet train is on track to be derailed by the Trump administration. Trump may even hold up this project a clear example of what not to do, in terms of federal infrastructure spending.

I sure hope so. It seems that California’s politicians can’t manage any form of fiscal restraint, so Trump would be doing us all a big favor.

Perhaps Brown can the console himself by launching the state’s satellite?


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