California’s bullet train project needs another $100 billion to be completed


LOS ANGELES (KABC) — When California’s “bullet train” was pitched to voters back in 2008, the cost of linking Los Angeles to San Francisco via high-speed rail was said to be about $40 billion.

But now, more than 15 years later, state officials say it’s going to cost as much as $35 billion just to complete the 171-mile stretch between Bakersfield and Merced. Completing the entire line will require an additional $100 billion.

“It’s never going to get built,” Republican State Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones said. “It’s never going to come to San Diego. It’s never going to come to L.A., and it’s always going to be $100 billion away.”

Jones has been a fierce opponent of the high-speed rail project. He’s been pushing for California to pull the plug on the project and end it.

“Spending $100 billion more does not justify the original $18 billion that we’ve wasted on this,” he said.

The latest bullet train update came earlier this week at a California State Senate High-Speed Rail Authority hearing. The authority’s CEO Brian Kelly said he’s looking to the federal government for more funding, as well as from private industry, but insists the project is still viable.

“The only way you get the public [to support the project] is by performing better, and I think the authority is performing better today than it was and I think it will going forward,” Kelly said in the hearing.

Opponents though say the project has been sucking too much money away from issues that are more important to California taxpayers, like education, housing and mental health.

But Jones does say bullet trains can have a future in California, pointing to the Brightline West project that aims to connect Las Vegas to Los Angeles with a two-hour train ride. Speeds on that route are expected to hit up to 200 mph.

The difference between that project and the state’s high-speed rail, Jones says, is that private companies and investors are driving the Brightline West line, with considerably less dependence on taxpayer funding.

“When you put projects like this in a private enterprise… you get efficiency and you get proper planning,” he said.

But even the Brightline project has gotten $3 billion in federal funds, and the company’s founder recently told the Los Angeles Times that roundtrip tickets will eventually cost more than $400.

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