Gov. Jerry Brown, construction labor unions and some others are determined to proceed with California’s nascent bullet train, with the first tracks scheduled to be laid later this year between Madera and the south end of Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley.
Brown, in fact, has used his appointive powers to ease the path of high speed rail, which he last rode on his weeklong April jaunt to China. Example: the key question asked of all applicants for an open seat as a Madera County supervisor was about support for the project. And just about the first thing his appointee did on assuming office was cast the deciding vote to take that county out of a lawsuit opposing the planned bullet train route. The suit ended with a settlement shortly afterward.
Then the winning bid to build that 28-mile opening segment and its combination of high viaducts and deep, wide trenches, came in at just under $1 billion, as much as half a billion dollars less than expected. So maybe the cost estimates of $68 billion-plus for the entire Los Angeles to San Francisco route are a tad high. (That’s before cost overruns, of course, and the Center for Investigative Reporting found the lead partner in the low-bidding consortium, Tutor Perini of Los Angeles, had overruns totaling $765 million – 40 percent – above its initial bids on several other recent projects.)
At nearly the same time, the nonpartisan federal Government Accountability Office reported that the High Speed Rail Authority’s estimates of revenue and ridership are probably spot on...