In late April, an internal draft report by the state rail authority’s staff revealed that the cost to build the 119-mile section of the California bullet train in the Central Valley is projected to increase by $1.8 billion. If this draft report is accurate, that would mean that the total cost for this stretch of the high-speed rail will increase to $12.4 billion. The draft report also projects that the partial high-speed system running from Bakersfield to Merced, which includes the 119-mile section that is in construction and will run from Madera to north of Bakersfield, will increase to $20.4 billion. The high-speed rail is projected to be completed sometime between 2026 and 2030. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Gov. Gavin Newsom called for building the Bakersfield to Merced system earlier this year, saying the full $77-billion project to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco with 220-mph trains had no funding or realistic plan for completion.”
The report states that the $1.8 billion cost increase will cover bridges, roadbed, trenches, and viaducts from Madera to Wasco, which makes up a distance of 119 miles. Breaking down the $1.8 billion cost increase, $477 million is for actual cost increases; $362 million is for increases in the scope of the project and almost $1 billion for additional contingencies to manage risk. The $20.4 billion cost to build the Bakersfield to Merced line, which is more accurately the Wasco to Merced line, would take almost all of the rail authority’s funding through 2030. It is not yet known how the rail authority would actually complete the partial operating segment by its planned 2026 date, given that the funding for it doesn’t fully arrive until 2030. All the increases for the project are disappointing considering that the rail authority had originally planned to build about 130 miles of track from Madera to Bakersfield for about $6 billion.