California’s Proposition 1A, passed with 52.7% of the vote statewide in 2008, promised a high-speed rail line running from San Diego to Sacramento would be built at a cost of about $40 billion, using state-issued bonds and federal money for the construction.
Today, cost estimates from the California High-Speed Rail Authority have more than doubled, to between $98 billion and $118 billion – even the lower estimate would make the project the most expensive railroad in history. Projected fares have also increased substantially, voters were originally told a one-way ticket between Los Angeles and San Francisco on a 200 MPH bullet train would cost about $55 for the 2 ½ hour trip. The Rail Authority now plans to peg the price of a trip to about 83% of that of a comparable airline ticket, resulting in a fare of about $105.
Because of the massive cost overrun, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove of Bakersfield and state Senator Doug LaMalfa of Richvale have said they will co-author a bill giving California voters a chance to rethink the project, given the massive cost overrun and the potential that the federal dollars originally in the mix may not be available given budgetary concerns on a national level.
If the railway is built, construction is set to begin late next year on the first 65 mile stretch of track, running from the town of Cocoran north to Borden in the Central Valley, passing through Fresno. The route has been dubbed “the line to nowhere” by critics. The main line, running from Los Angeles to San Francisco, is projected to be completed by 2020, with a northern extension to Sacramento and a southern one to San Diego in place by 2026. Some experts have said it could be 2030 before the full project is online.