The last time we checked on the California high-speed rail project, it had blasted through its budget and now may cost close to $100 billion.

As it seems the only thing that is truly high speed about this train is the speed of government spending, the US Department of Transportation is now planning to audit grants that were given for the construction.

The inspector general’s audit, announced Thursday, will examine the Federal Railroad Administration’s oversight of nearly $3.5 billion in federal grant money awarded to the project.
 It comes as the plan to bring travelers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours faces growing scrutiny.

…The authority’s new chief executive has pledged more transparency about the project’s troubles.

“We will cooperate fully in this and any other audit of our funding or program,” Brian Kelly said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with our federal partners to deliver the nation’s first truly high-speed system.”

Voters were sold a bill of goods in 2008 when they voted for both Barack Obama and Proposition 1A, which was the bullet train measure.

Proposition 1A approved the issuance of $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds. This money is supposed to partially fund an 800-mile high speed train under the supervision of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. In 2008, when voters approved the measure, the estimate for the total cost of the project was $40 billion.

Unlike Proposition 1A, there will be consequences of the promises made during the grant process have not been met.

The federal money awarded to California comes with specific conditions that [rail authority’s new chief executive, Brian] Kelly. has promised to meet. They include completing a 119-mile segment of track now under construction in the Central Valley and finishing environmental reviews for the full line by 2022.

The audit will specifically evaluate how the Federal Railroad Administration determines whether California has complied with federal guidelines.

There is no timeline offered by the Inspector General for completion of the audit process. However, I hope it is completed in time for the gubernatorial race, and that it is an issue clearly addressed in the race.

In a fascinating development, some of the Democrats running are uninterested in continuing with Governor Jerry Brown’s legacy project. Delaine Eastin, a former Democratic member of the State Assembly and one-time superintendent of public education, is one of nearly 30 candidates running. She had this to say about continuing the bullet train:

…I can’t commit to doing it if we don’t find a revenue stream. It really is saying we’ll build a big expensive thing when we can’t afford to give kids health care, we can’t afford to educate kids. There are things that are more important than high-speed rail. If we have to walk away, we will.

In other train news: Trains along Trains along Sacramento’s Capitol Corridor are running later than before because of….the homeless.

Train engineers frequently see people walking along rail lines in Sacramento and the Bay Area, Capitol Corridor head David Kutrosky said.

…That’s prompted several rail agencies locally to launch crackdowns, including a joint effort starting this month between the Capitol Corridor and Union Pacific freight rail company, which owns the tracks used by many passenger services in California.

The problem has become significant enough that Kutrosky sent an email last week to passengers asking them to report any encampments or large piles of trash they notice along the tracks while on their train ride.

It appears that the Karma Train is now pulling into Sacramento Station.