California may have missed chance to reduce bullet train costs


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Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to appear with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Oakland today, just three days after the Legislature approved $8 billion in state and federal spending for California’s high-speed railroad and related projects.

Eventually the bullet train is expected to carry riders from Los Angeles to San Francisco at speeds up to 220 mph. But the project, which is estimated to cost $68 billion total, has been ensnared in controversy over funding and construction plans.

Critics point out that the federal government has not given the state guarantees on future funding, and they’re concerned that work is starting in the Central Valley rather than more heavily populated metropolitan areas.

At the same time, state officials have rebuffed overtures from SNCF, the company that developed and operates France’s successful national railway, to work on California’s bullet train. Dan Weikel and Ralph Vartabedian reported on the situation in Monday’s Los Angeles Times.

Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said ‘SNCF’s proposal was self-serving and not in the public interest.’

But company officials and others say SNCF’s proposals had merit and may have helped reduce costs and obstacles to construction.


‘Simply put, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has a wish list, not a plan,’ said a presentation from SNCF. ‘This lack of an investment-grade business plan is a deadly defect, particularly in a project that by law cannot rely on government subsidies for its operation and maintenance.’

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento


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