California Governor Newsom Wants to Complete High-Speed Rail From Merced to Bakersfield

Newsom said California will complete a 110-mile (177 km) high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. This would not meet the requirements of the original bond measure.

California had originally planned to build a 520-mile system in the first phase that would allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour in the traffic-choked state from Los Angeles to San Francisco and begin full operations by 2033. Newsom said he would not give up entirely on the effort.

Newsom also announced that the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta twin tunnels project to one tunnel.

Nextbigfuture had predicted in December, 2018 that Governor Newsom would walk away from the High-Speed Rail project. The announcement is abandoning 80% of the project. 400 miles of the old 520-mile plan will not be built.

It will cost another $1.6 billion to complete the Central Valley segment. The cost for the initial 119-mile stretch of track will be $10.6 billion$12.2 billion. This is about double the original $6 billion estimates.

California will spend $1.6 billion so they do not have to return $3.5 billion to the federal government. They will need to complete the Central Valley section by the end of 2022.

On January 28, 2010, the White House announced that California would receive $2.35 billion of its request, of which $2.25 billion was allocated specifically for California High-Speed Rail, while the rest was designated for conventional rail improvements. On October 28, 2010, the federal government awarded $715 million specifically for the high-speed rail project for the Central Valley segments from Merced to Fresno or Fresno-to-Bakersfield.

How Can They Keep the $7.5 Billion Bond Money?

There are legal issues around the $7.5 billion Proposition 1A bond measure.

The bond measure had legal requirements:
(1) Can the train travel from Los Angeles (Union Station) to San Francisco (Transbay Terminal) in two hours and 40 minutes?
(2) Will the train require an operational subsidy?
(3) Does the new “blended system” approach meet the definition of high-speed rail in Proposition 1A?

The 110 or 120-mile segment will not allow any train to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes. There is no way anything can operate on that line without an operational subsidy.

Newsom Plans Means California Keeps the $3.5 Billion Federal Money and Gets a Nearly Useless Rail Line

California can spend $1.6 billion or so and finish the short line. They will keep the $3.5 billion in federal money. There will be a nearly useless section of rail line that could be mixed in with regular rail service. It will be an overpriced section of conventional rail.

There will be a legal battle over the $7.5 billion bond money. It will not matter much to California what happens with the $7.5 billion. The state has a $209 billion per year budget. $7.5 billion will move from one pocket to another to cover the shortfall if the legal battles resulted in a “loss” of the $7.5 billion.

SOURCES – California Audit Report, Reuters, Wikipedia

Written by Brian Wang.