Despite shake-up, bullet train project faces more bad news

California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Brian Kelly worked over the summer to reassure anxious state lawmakers that a new management team could revive the troubled bullet-train project. He also proceeded to push out key officials overseeing contract and property decisions.

Yet the changes haven’t stopped a new wave of bad news in September for the project, which was once envisioned as a statewide network of high-speed rail but has been downsized to a 119-mile link between Bakersfield and Merced expected to cost in the range of $20 billion. 

A Los Angeles Times report outlined the huge problems still facing the rail authority’s land-acquisition efforts after seven years in the Central Valley. Not only does the agency need to buy about 300 more properties to be able to build the train, the Times reported that consultants believe at least an additional 488 parcels will need to be bought to deal with complex issues related to easements on sites with infrastructure owned by Pacific Gas & Electric and other utilities as well as AT&T, railroads and irrigation districts.

This adds new doubts about the rail authority’s projection it could finish construction of the Central Valley route by 2026.

One project manager, after warning of severe delays, told the Times that “I am going to ride this train, but I am afraid it is going to be my ashes in an urn. I told my kids to take my ashes on the bullet train.”

The Times also noted that the rail authority had been forced to buy larger lots than it needed to accommodate the rail route to such an extent that it now owns hundreds of properties – including “toxic waste sites, vacant lots and rental homes” – that it must manage. The list includes at least 466 acres of cultivated agriculture fields.

San Jose area critics push for costly elevated lanes

There was also bad news for the project from Northern California. At a rail authority board meeting held in San Jose, trustees voted unanimously to approve a route connecting the San Joaquin Valley with San Jose after the Central Valley initial segment is built. Yet testimony at the hearing showed the intensity of opposition to building any new rail route that didn’t minimize disruptions to the neighborhoods and communities it traveled through.

According to a Fresno Bee report, speakers complained to the rail board that early promises that elevated rail lines would be built had given way to plans for regular, surface rail lines. But since elevated rail costs two to four times more per mile, choosing it would make project costs explode – and Gov. Gavin Newsom has already said there’s not nearly enough funding likely to be available to complete the $78 billion statewide project advocated by his predecessor, Jerry Brown.

That argument didn’t move San Jose resident Danny Garza. According to the Bee, he said that not building elevated tracks in his neighborhood was “a bait-and-switch” given past guarantees of minimal impacts. “Please don’t use our neighborhood to balance your budget,” he told the board.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told trustees that his city could drop its support for the project if the rail authority didn’t use “best practices”  to “provide our community with the safety it deserves.”

The section of the proposed route in the San Joaquin Valley also drew complaints, according to the Bee. Rick Ortega, general manager of the Grassland Water and Resource Conservation Districts, said the staff report “contains no design detail on how the authority intends to mitigate impacts through the ecological area.” The Grassland Environmental Area is a 160,000-acre site mostly in Merced County that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has repeatedly said must be preserved because of the crucial ecological importance of its wetlands.

Ortega also said elevated tracks were necessary – or that the rail authority should change its planned route.

Board members said the staff would consider the complaints, but offered no promises about the nature of possible mitigation efforts, according to the Bee.

This article was originally published by


  1. Would this be the demoncrats biggest boondoggle in the history of CA? —–or was there something worse?

  2. absolutely no surprise. no oversight. Brown liked choo choos. people made alot of money, and will make more money off this boondoggle. cut your losses and run and hide. we’ve been had

  3. California’s government is competing with Boston’s “Big Dig” project that took untold millions of direct costs and a like amount in payoff’s to politicians and unions.
    California’s high speed rail between Merced and Bakersfield will be competing with Amtrak another government subsidized rail line.
    Brown, Newsom, and the states incompetent legislators are the wrong people to do anything of this magnitude. The very reason that its gone from being a rail connection between San Francisco and Los Angeles down to a connection between one blue-collar city to another. The very people who can ill afford the ticked prices. So once again Newsom will go with hat in hand in search of subsidy monies and this train to no where will be another albatross around the neck of that same blue-collar tax payer and he’ll prefer his pick up to the train anyway.
    What a waste of resources and land

  4. Gotta Gedada Displace says

    WHO can prove ANYTHING about them being ANYWHERE CLOSE to having TRAINS (even) on order (You know, the part that MOVES ?) ??? This gigantic FRAUD will only ever become “The world’s longest BICYCLE AND JOGGING PATH ” and the degree of FRAUD grows EXPONENTIALLY by the minute !!!

  5. The Captive says

    As you go through life you learn that to push against something ,too much , just leads to more difficulties that the even worse and you ease off for your sanity . This is the case with this Brown-gruesome-Newsome choo-choo. It just keeps getting worse and worse. These scammers must love it because they can skim and scam off more $$$ for their own use. If the voters would vote the money out of their hands that would be best. So far these criminals of government keep doing it ALL WRONG! So far there will be no peace in this CORRUPT STATE and the taxpayers are holding the bag,

  6. ExCaliExpat says

    This is wealth transfer hidden under the guise of transportation,….
    It must be stopped now because those funds are necessary to build additional water storage & processing capabilities….
    Transportation mode is a luxury, water is a necessity & the Democrats and enviro-nuts want to control your life by restricting the necessities…
    Fight them and let rational people lead, not power hungry Socialists….

  7. Hey, at $1,000,000.00 per foot, who can complain?

  8. Harry Tawkko says

    The price of popcorn must be going through the roof.

  9. Stick em’ up.

  10. Raymond H. Clary, Jr. says

    The dufus managers of this project obviously never heard of the six Ps of success: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

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