California High-Speed Rail Is A Budgetary Trainwreck As Cost Soars 20% To $77 Billion

California's bullet train will be coming in over budget and behind schedule, after its estimated cost was revised from $64 billion to $77 billion - a 20% increase, and an estimated completion date of 2033, four years later than originally projected. The new estimates, contained in a 114-page business plan, was issued in draft form on Friday by the rail authority ahead of public hearings and a formal legislative review in approximately two months. 

The rail authority previously argued that it had just enough money to build the grade-separated tracks for its route between San Francisco and Los Angeles at speeds of up to 220 mph. 

The new estimates will force California's leadership to double down on its political and financial commitments if it wants to see the system completed, against a backdrop of rising costs, years of delays, strident litigation and backlashes in communities where homes, businesses, farms and environmental preserves will have to give up land to the rail's right-of-way. -LA Times

The revised plan will leave California legislators scrambling to grapple with higher costs amid an uncertain economic future in the state with the nation's worst poverty rate and already strained balance sheet.

While the endgame will be to connect Northern and Southern California, from upper San Francisco to San Diego - the new plan is to focus on the track between San Francisco and the Central Valley - the primarily agricultural and less populated region of California, which is set to be completed in 2029. 

One of the current hurdles is how to content with traveling through California's mountainous regions - which designers are still trying to figure out. 

The $77 billion cost, a 20 per cent increase, is a baseline estimate, but Kelly also included high and low ranges in the plan based on potential risks.

It says 119 miles (192 kilometres) of track in the Central Valley is scheduled to open by 2022, which would make it the first operational segment. That's 14 years after voters approved a $10 billion bond for high-speed rail in November 2008.

A summary of the plan reviewed by The Associated Press offers limited details on the portion from Central Valley to Los Angeles. The agency hopes to complete all necessary environmental reviews for the entire line by 2022, a delay from initial timelines that planned for environmental clearance by 2017 for most parts of the track.


The state has spent $2.5 billion in federal stimulus money and has an additional $930 million in federal money on the table. That's on top of the $10 billion bond from voters. -CNBC

So - they'll basically make it up as they go along. 

The largest near-term driver of the cost increase has been the Central Valley section, where 119 miles of track between Wasco and Madera will cost $10.6 billion, up from an original estimate of around $6 billion. Senior consultant Roy Hill told the rail authority board, "The worst-case scenario has happened.

[insert: monorailguy.JPG]

Some legislators aren't so excited at this point. 

"Let's cut our losses and use the billions not yet wasted on (high-speed rail) to instead improve freeways, highways and roads and perhaps improve existing rail systems throughout California," Said state Sen. Andy Vidak (R). 

"Heavy sigh" tweeted Elon Musk following Friday's announcement. Musk pitched 

Of note, Musk pitched a "Hyperloop" - an sealed tube with a "pod" traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles at 760 MOH, allowing for a 35 minute commute. 

Musk says it would cost around $7.5 billion for a passenger version of the Hyperloop, however critics argue there's no way that's reasonable considering that part of the California high-speed rail's enormous budget is approximately 1,100 pieces of land they have to acquire. 

The Hyperloop concept has been "open-sourced" by Musk and SpaceX in the hopes that the technology will be further developed by companies and interdisciplinary student-led teams.


Mr. Universe Liberal Sun, 03/11/2018 - 22:34 Permalink

This is only the latest estimate. Looking back at the Bay Bridge rebuilding they have a few hundred billion to go. The costs so far, is laying the track in the easiest section. How about the tunnels they are going to need and tearing up city infrastructure? This is a government socialist wet dream come true.

In reply to by Liberal

spag Four Star Sun, 03/11/2018 - 22:53 Permalink

better go back to horse and carriage, just need a few dollars of hay.


but for the sane, here is something interesting. china managed to build 10k of high speed rail in about 7 years for 300billion.


what the fuck dude, if the asshats didnt start the fucking war in iraq every man woman and child in the US coulda have their own personal high speed train for the cost of the war.






In reply to by Four Star

greenskeeper carl spag Sun, 03/11/2018 - 23:36 Permalink

While I certainly agree with you that we should stop starting these shitty wars, I hate the "if we didn't start the war in Iraq, the government could provide _____" line of thought. I'd prefer they just don't tax/borrow/print the money to begin with.


But, since California IS going to tax/borrow that money, since its california, it would be interesting to see this things ever increasing budget next to California's ever increasing pension debt bomb thats going to destroy them.

In reply to by spag

TradingTroll spag Sun, 03/11/2018 - 23:54 Permalink

119 miles for $10.6.


Thats just under 200km


If the Chinese did 50x that (50x200=10,000) that’s 50x10.6=530bn.

Considering the Chinese project was done seven years ago, inflation of about 8.5% would get you to $530 but as we know the biggest difference is taxes, fees, regulatory costs and labour costs.


That said 3% inflation gets you $370bn after seven years. 


If it were me, $160bn to not have to ride on some Chinese made fake bullet train, sounds cheap.


But if you want classy, Japanese bullet trains rock. Those trains are so quiet! Lexus quiet!


In reply to by spag

Mr. Universe PodissNM Mon, 03/12/2018 - 13:45 Permalink

Dad was a horseman, owned a racehorse when I was a small child. He used to ride and train in the hills south of San Francisco. I asked him later on why we didn't have horses or why he didn't want to. His answer was "Do you know how much a horse eats, every day?" 20 minutes later after the whole story I learned not to ask that question again.

In reply to by PodissNM

ZeroSpam Four Star Sun, 03/11/2018 - 23:53 Permalink

^^^   lloll  <<< CHRONIC  years-long SPAMMER     ^^^

His "disguised" links  (WHAT THEY DO) will take you to his Trojan- and Spam-laden "Whacked Out Biblicism" webpage.   He also posts as  "stizazz" and has been banned countless times for more than five years with countless log-ons.


Copy and paste the following text and send to

"BAN and REMOVE spam accounts  "lloll"  and   "stizazz"   who are more log-ons from CHRONIC Spammers that ZH has been banning for years (that's you, too,  biblicism  &  dailywesterner)"


In reply to by Four Star

JohannSennefelder lloll Mon, 03/12/2018 - 00:29 Permalink

His "disguised" links  (MAKE BELIEVE HEBREWS) will take you to his Trojan- and Spam-laden "Whacked Out Biblicism" webpage.   He also posts as  "stizazz" and has been banned countless times for more than five years with countless log-ons.


Copy and paste the following text and send to

"BAN and REMOVE spam accounts  "lloll"  and   "stizazz"   who are more log-ons from CHRONIC Spammers that ZH has been banning for years (that's you,   biblicism  &  dailywesterner)"

In reply to by lloll

Scanderbeg Mr. Universe Mon, 03/12/2018 - 00:23 Permalink

The San Gabriel mountains alone pose very tough engineering challenges because of multiple sediments, steep grades and the area is very earthquake prone. 

Even if it can be done the cost would be astronomical and it would take decades and many tunneling experts are doubting it can.

The French and Japanese were originally consulted but they bolted when they realized the route was being gerrymandered for political reasons along with all the corruption, six figure "planning comittees" and fixed bids. Logically the route would go along PCH but instead they are taking the most difficult, inefficient, pointless route possible.

The initial section doesn't even connect two metro areas but instead a Chinese Graveyard and abandoned prison in the central valley.

Most of the train will not be electrified and even when completed would only be marginally faster than Amtrak while more expensive than a flight.

The ridership projections are comically inflated and it will never generate a profit let alone pay for itself.

Under the original ballot provision the current changes are also illegal and good luck getting money from the Trump administration or the private sector.

This project has already failed and the only reason it's still being funded is graft by the planners, bidders and politicians along with "make work" contracts for public employees. They will keep the "gravy train" going as long as possible while the idiotic CA voters can carve the dedication in 2050 on their tombstones.

In reply to by Mr. Universe

SoDamnMad Mr. Universe Mon, 03/12/2018 - 11:54 Permalink

The problem is with these transit dreams are that most people aren't going from point A to Point B.  They take a bus to Point A and then another form of transportation from Point B to their destination.  In Europe you have buses, street cars, mini-buses, metros, trains and taxis or hire cars. Some of the most expensive train systems in LA never got people from where they lived to where they worked.  Why did state government think this was any different. It was only to line contractors (friends) pockets. The BIG ONE will get them before this is finished.

In reply to by Mr. Universe

bigkahuna The_Juggernaut Mon, 03/12/2018 - 01:20 Permalink

It all starts with the so called "conservative" politicians arguing that they need to appease the statist ideology of the left to try and win some lefty flatline voters - so they start moving left. This does not get the right any votes - and they know this.

In cali - they have ALL moved so far left that they are off the cliff. No true conservative has any real choice there. Most people of conservative values are forced to just give up and move because there is no choice - there is far left and kill whitey suicide candidates.

Unfortunately, the degenerates moving from cali are mostly not conservative and like a political virus. Wherever they escape to - the lunacy follows. The left shift has destroyed the Pacific coast states and is moving into adjacent states. Once they get ahold of a normal political playing field - they infect it and the right begins to implode. Then it is only a matter of about 10-20 years before you're screwed unless a stand is taken. If there is no stand, it becomes time to escape. At some point, the left will begin devouring itself. It is the only conclusion - but this only occurs after they have completely stamped out the right (the right usually assists them in this effort).

In reply to by The_Juggernaut

HardlyZero Disgruntled Goat Mon, 03/12/2018 - 01:19 Permalink

The original rail system west of the Rockies 150 years ago was build by many imported 'low-wage' laborers, China was involved then too, and what built the San Francisco culture in those days.  That might be used again here, in some type of worker-exchange camps, but not sure it will be useful engineering for high-speed rail.  There would need to be some corporate-govt. business arrangement just as 150 years ago.  But no one is dealing with the labor/engineering/quality cost.

There appear to be so many roadblocks to this project that the only plausible outcome will be some sort of monorail loop that leaves San Francisco, goes around northern California, and loops back to San Fran.

The mountains are nearly impossible to construct, transit, and daily at low energy high-speed no less !

This is something that may not complete.

In reply to by Disgruntled Goat

junction Stackers Sun, 03/11/2018 - 22:30 Permalink

For now at Zero Hedge, typical worthless and unfunny comments by self important, boring posters.  Los Angeles' main auto problem are the commuter traffic jams, which could be alleviated by requiring a 4 day work week.  But peons must work at least 5 days a week, just like they must have Daylight Savings Time.  And fluoride in the water, to dumb them down. Instead of this payoff to the highway lobby and connected landowners, it would be cheaper for California to provide free bus service between LA and San Francisco.

In reply to by Stackers

truthalwayswinsout Sun, 03/11/2018 - 22:22 Permalink

What you see here is a perfect example of corruption. Of course, the California government is no better than Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago et al and soon we will have an entire ghetto state.


prmths2 truthalwayswinsout Mon, 03/12/2018 - 04:25 Permalink

The corruption and incompetence is so pervasive, it cannot be hidden. I am puzzled that CALPERS has not tried to halt the high speed rail project so that the funds can be used to shore up pensions. The sheer size of the project should have attracted attention from several entities in California that are seeking funds. The only explanation that comes to mind is that the leadership of those entities has been bought off.



In reply to by truthalwayswinsout

DEMIZEN Sun, 03/11/2018 - 22:30 Permalink

wait until they actually start digging and find some prehistoric Chumash and Comanche memorabilia.


even if they eventually get it together it will take me 6hrs+ to union station at a time of projected completion considering traffic congestions will continue to grow at the current rate.


200B is peanuts compared to Calpers black hole.