Foothill Freeway

The 210 Freeway and Sunland Boulevard intersect at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, near where tunneling for the bullet train is proposed. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Ralph Vartabedian
November 3, 2015

The California high-speed rail authority bowed to pressure from California legislators and members of Congress late Tuesday and released a copy of a 2013 report showing a large estimated increase in the cost of building the initial segment of the bullet train project.

The report, disclosed by the Times in a story Oct. 25, said Parsons Brinckerhoff had briefed state officials in October 2013 that the projected cost of the first phase of the bullet train system had risen 31%. The state did not use the increase, however, in its 2014 business plan four months later.

A dozen members of Congress and four members of the California assembly had written to the state and to Parsons Brinckerhoff asking for disclosure of the report.

Rail authority chairman Dan Richard and CEO Jeff Morales released the document and said the cost estimates it contained are part of an iterative process and that the numbers were “preliminary, still in development and subject to review clarification and refinement.” They say initial contracts have come in below budget.

“The authority under the present leadership has always been forthcoming about the costs and risks of the program,” Richard said.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins said rail authority officials have agreed to appear at an upcoming hearing.
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Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), chairman of the House rail subcommittee, wrote to Parsons Brinckerhoff on Tuesday asking for the document. “Given the magnitude of the project, we have questions regarding the stewardship of federal funds by the California High Speed Rail Authority,” said the letter, co-signed by 11 Republicans from districts across the state.

The report shows that the cost of building the first segment from Burbank to Merced had grown from $27.3 billion to $35.7 billion, not including future inflation. The state publishes most of its public cost figures with future inflation included, which would translate the cost of the initial segment from the current $31 billion to about $40 billion, based on the Parsons Brinckerhoff estimates.

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