Derailed

California’s “Train to Nowhere,” the alleged high-speed rail that would link San Francisco and Los Angeles (originally), and, now, the thriving metropolises of Shafter (just north of Bakersfield) and Merced is in deep trouble. Well, it has been in deep trouble since day one of the project but the trouble is now far worse: The US Department of Transportation canceled funding of nearly $929 million. That cancellation stops $929 million of funds from heading to California. Making matters worse, the US is considering asking for $2.5 billion to be returned.

Based on CHSRA’s repeated failure to submit critical required deliverables and its failure to make sufficient progress to complete the Project (as defined in Attachment 2, Section 1 h, of the FY 10 Agreement) hy the close of the performance period, and after careful consideration of the information presented by CHSRA in its March 4, 2019, letters to me and to Ms. Jamie Rennert (CHSRA Response) (included as Ex. C and Ex. D, respectively), FRA has determined that CHSRA has violated the terms of the FY 10 Agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the Project.

CHSRA consistently and repeatedly failed in its management and delivery of the Project, and in meeting the terms and conditions of the FY 1O Agreement, all of which constitute violations of the FY lO Agreement. Despite extensive guidance from FRA, CHSRA was unable to prepare and submit fundamental Project delivery documents (e.g., budgets, Funding Contribution Plans (FCPs), and Project Management Plans (PMPs)). CHSRA’s inability to track and report near-term milestones, as described further below, shows that CHSRA is likewise unable to forecast accurately a long-term schedule and costs for the Project. Further, after almost a decade, CHSRA has not demonstrated the ability to complete the Project, let alone to deliver it by the end of 2022, as the FY 10 Agreement requires. As described further below, CHSRA is chronically behind in Project construction activities and has not been able to correct or mitigate its deficiencies. Overall, such critical failures completely undermine FRA’s confidence in CHSRA’s ability to manage the Project effectively. [footnote omitted]

This is what almost every critic of this project has said from day one. The cost has gone from $10 billion to somewhere north of $70 billion (I’ve seen estimates that range from $72 billion to well over $100 billion). The demand for high-speed rail between Bakersfield and Merced isn’t high, so the project is going to have problems breaking even.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said he would fight the decision in court. But for now, I will not be surprised if the California high-speed rail line turns into a brand new bikeway sometime in the future.

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