The cost to build California’s ambitious but long delayed high-speed rail line has once again risen, with rail officials now estimating it could take up to $105 billion to finish the line from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
The new cost estimates, released Tuesday as part of the California High Speed Rail Authority’s biennial business plan, are up roughly $5 billion from two years ago. The increases are due in part to new commitments aimed at minimizing community disruption, such as building enhanced noise barriers and distancing the train from the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in the Central Valley, project officials said.
The project’s price tag has steadily risen since voters first approved nearly $10 billion in bond money for it in 2008, when the total cost was pegged at $40 billion. In the years since, the costs have kept climbing amid struggles to obtain the necessary land and other delays. The first part of the line will run through the Central Valley; construction is underway, but no track has yet been laid.
Chief Executive Officer Brian Kelly said Tuesday the possibility of a fresh infusion of cash from the federal government puts the project on a stronger path. California should be in a good position to compete for as much as $6 billion in grant money under the federal infrastructure bill Congress passed last year.
During the Obama administration, California won roughly $3 billion for the project, then former Republican President Donald Trump revoked about $1 billion of that. It’s been returned by the Biden administration.
Receiving billions more in federal dollars would allow the project’s first operational track to be a double track, not a single one, and help the project move forward on design and other work, Kelly said.
“We just think that this is a great opportunity to really move the project forward,” he said.
Still, the project faces challenges. Last year, the state Legislature did not agree to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget request to release $4.2 billion that’s left in the voter-approved bond fund for the project. Democratic leaders in the state Assembly have been hesitant to release the money due to skepticism about the project’s overall approach and lack of sustained funding.
Newsom, a Democrat, proposed releasing the money again in his January budget proposal. His spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the status of the negotiations.