March 28, 2016: the original post was hardly dry when this story from The Los Angeles Times broke as the headline story: changes could add hundreds of millions of dollars to first 29 miles of bullet train. This project, if allowed to continue, is simply going to break the bank.
That's just the "cost overrun" today: hundreds of millions of dollars for the first, and the easiest, 29 miles of this debacle. The story:
The California rail authority is facing hundreds of millions of dollars in potential change orders and other prospective cost increases on the first 29 miles of the bullet train system, state and private contractor documents show.
The change orders and other claims are coming from construction firms, utilities and railroads involved in that first segment, according to the documents.
Several of the biggest claims and change orders could cost 10% to more than 30% above original estimates for the segment, which is to run between Madera and Fresno. Scores of smaller claims could mean additional spending.
Higher costs for the first construction phase of the project would carry implications for the entire $64-billion system.
The rail authority has repeatedly asserted that Central Valley contracts were signed for below budget amounts. If claims submitted after those contracts were signed send costs above budget, they will call into question the rail authority's cost projections for the full system.
The contractor team on the first segment has sent the rail authority a log that includes more than 300 pending change orders and notices, about 200 of which do not yet include cost estimates. The team, led by Sylmar-based Tutor Perini, won a $1-billion contract in 2013 for the first segment. The Times obtained a copy of the log dated last November and a subsequent update in January.
The California rail authority’s failure to identify a source of funding to connect Los Angeles to the future bullet train system is not acceptable, said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments.
Until the high-speed rail authority released a new draft business plan last month, the state had planned to open its first operating segment between Burbank and the Central Valley by 2022. But in a major concession to its limited funding, the plan now calls for a cheaper segment that would run from San Jose to the Central Valley by 2025.
By the time that initial segment is built, all the existing funds would be exhausted, leaving uncertainty about how and when the line would cross the geologically complex mountains of Southern California.
The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office has raised the same concerns, saying in a report that the business plan fails to make a case for how it will pay for a completed system. The bullet train has been funded so far by a $9-billion bond, $3.2 billion in federal grants and about $500 million a year in greenhouse gas fees, all of which leave big shortfalls in the $64-billion megaproject. The shortfall is estimated at $43.5 billion, an amount that would be difficult or impossible to find in the short term.
The Assn. of Governments has played a key role in representing the region at the rail authority, signing a 2013 memorandum of understanding that provided for about $1 billion of investments in Southern California’s transit systems to prepare for the future bullet train. The deal put Southern California on a near equal footing with the Bay Area, which received money to electrify its Caltrain commuter system.
Geico Rock Award 2016: Nominee
A screenshot taken from The Drudge Report, March 27, 2016:
It doesn't quite meet the criteria for the Geico Rock Award, but comes very, very close.
A Note to the Granddaughters
Now that I have completed Doctor Zhivago and put it aside for a few days or weeks, I will try to tackle JRR Tolkien's translation of Beowulf (again). For whatever reason, Beowulf has always fascinated me as a literary mystery but I've never warmed to the story or the any of the translations.
It will be interesting how far I get this time.