Finishing the high-speed rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles is now expected to cost $77.3 billion, says the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s latest cost estimate. This is a big jump from the 2016 estimate of $64.3 billion and an even bigger jump from the $25 billion estimated in 2000, which was the only one available when voters approved the project in 2008. Completion has also been pushed back from 2020 in the 2000 plan to 2029 in the 2016 plan to 2033 in the latest plan.
While the cost increase has gotten a lot of media attention, less noticed is the fact that this $77.3-billion plan is for trains that will go at “speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour” and “typically” take “under three hours” to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The 2000 plan called for trains going 220 miles per hour and taking two-and-a-half hours from LA to San Francisco.
Of course, 220 “exceeds” 200 and two-and-a-half hours is “under” three hours, but the softening of the language makes it clear that the authority doesn’t expect to meet the original 2000 targets. This is partly because of a 2013 law effectively limiting speeds in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. A further quibble is that the “under three hours” estimate is for non-stop trains, and most trains “typically” won’t go non-stop. Continue reading