California Legislature approves audit of bullet train project
In January, the first formal state audit of the California bullet train project was authorized by the Legislature’s joint audit committee. The audit was authorized after the California High-Speed Rail Authority disclosed that the cost of building the first 119 miles of track in the Central Valley would cost $10.6 billion, which is a 77 percent increase from the original estimate of $6 billion. The last time that State Auditor Elaine Howle reviewed the rail project was in 2012, which revealed a range of problems in management and planning. It turns out that construction work is about seven years behind schedule and is facing challenges acquiring property, relocating underground utilities, and designing safety measures.
The committee voted unanimously for the audit, despite the members on the panel disagreeing on the scope of the audit. Opponents of the rail project believe that millions to billions of dollars in annual operating subsidies will be needed, based on California’s high costs and its projected low fares. However, rail authority executives claim that their ridership models and business plans show a subsidy would not be required. Howle expects the audit to take 2,600 hours of work and that it will take about seven months to complete at an estimated cost of $344,000. Hopefully, some of the issues with the rail project are able to be fixed.