CA High-Speed Rail Fail: $600 million spent, not a mile of track laid

Posted by: Phineas on November 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm

**Posted by Phineas

"Train wreck"

“Train wreck”

Because The Future! Or something:

The latest accounting by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to state lawmakers indicates that the agency has spent almost $600 million on engineering and environmental consultants — all without turning a shovelful of dirt on construction.

In the twice-a-year report (PDF) sent to legislative leaders on Friday, the agency is sticking to its estimated price tag of $68.3 billion to build its San Francisco-to-Los Angeles bullet-train line. The agency earlier this year approved a $987 million contract with a team of contractors to design and build the first 29-mile stretch of the line from Madera through Fresno.

But while contractors Tutor Perini Corp., Zachry Construction and Parsons Corp. have been given a green light for engineering and other pre-construction activities, the authority has offered no estimate of when ground may be broken .

If the name “Tutor-Perini” rings a bell, you’re not just hearing things. Tutor-Perini’s principle owner is Richard Blum. Blum has been mentioned before in this blog, and there have been allegations in the past of cronyism in the winning of government contracts by companies he’s involved with. By sheer coincidence, Blum is also the husband of Senator Diane Feinstein.

Fancy that.

But, back to the more than half-a-billion, this is money that has been spent before construction has even begun on the initial Fresno to Madera segment. The Fresno Bee article describes what we’ve gotten for our money, so far:

“The authority has made significant progress in its mission to plan, design, build and operate the nation’s first high-speed rail system as part of the statewide rail modernization program,” agency CEO Jeff Morales wrote in the report.

The report details a raft of administrative advances, including filling all of its executive management positions, developing a risk-management plan, issuing a report on greenhouse-gas emissions, and awarding the construction contracts for the Madera-Fresno stretch.

(I hope those executives got some nice chairs for that $600 million.)

There is still an environmental report –Yay! More consulting fees!– for the area around Chowchilla to be done, which is why this state version of a shovel-ready project hasn’t started. Already they’re two years behind schedule.

And the whole ball of wax (with attendant fees) has to be done for at least six other segments from San Francisco to Anaheim. Luckily, the High-Speed Rail Authority is allowed to spend up to $980 million on pre-construction “consulting contracts” through 2018. No way they’ll come asking for more public money (1). Nope. Nuh-uh.

I can’t wait to see what the costs come to once they actually start building this boondoggle.

Nice legacy ya got there, Governor.

(1) Funded by either public borrowing or higher taxes, of course.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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16 Responses to “CA High-Speed Rail Fail: $600 million spent, not a mile of track laid”


  1. Upon reading the opening statement about spending $600 million without so much as dirtying a spade, my first question was, “Who’s the crony here?”. But my overriding question is why are we entertaining thoughts of spending this sort of money on 19th Century technology? Both were answered by naming Feinstein’s hubby.

    “Corruption, the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty.–Edward Gibbon

  2. Nate says:

    Okay, so, they spend all this money on consultants and investigations and all that stuff…and just watch, somebody’s going to come along and say, “Hey, if you build this, it’ll kill off the endangered Whatchahoozis beetle!” And that’ll be the end of that.

  3. OldmanRick says:

    Another example of why government projects never work properly. Those drawing paychecks from taxpayers have no real sweat equity or risk in the game. Function or fail, they still receive a paycheck and none of the blame.

    Imagine trying to construct a transcontinental railroad in this day and age with the current mob if self acclaimed brainiacs in government. It would make the antics of the Three Stooges seem like a gathering of world class physicists compared to their fiasco.

  4. steveegg says:

    California will sink at least $100 billion in on this.

  5. ALman says:

    Guy says, “It’s almost as if this country is being run my the mob!”

    Other guy says, “That would be a step up!!”

  6. Nancy says:

    Large engineering projects are like that. You plan and write reports and more reports and design and submit for review and answer questions and comments and revise and revise and write more reports and eventually get approval for your construction design and plans, long before any construction takes place. And, it’s in California, which has more bureaucracy than most countries. Which means more reports and reviews and hoops to jump through.
    And the people working on this do have some incentive to keep costs down, actually. Large construction projects aren’t exactly growing on trees right now, and once a company gets a reputation for being expensive, it makes it that much more difficult to win work in the future. No work coming in means you get laid off.

  7. proof says:

    Just in time for Christmas, it’s the BiPolar Express!

  8. TomTB says:

    How can ANYTHING ever get built today? We have competing regulatory agencies at every turn, saving critters that were not even indigenous to North America at the time of the founding of this Republic!

  9. GoneWithTheWind says:

    You are wrong. This is a great success. Did you think building the train was the goal? No! Robbing the government coffers was the goal. So far it has been a complete success. Give them time and it will be a stunning success. In the mean time I’m sorry to tell you but we need to raise the taxes and also just like last election your vote isn’t worth crap because the politicians have bought all the votes they need with your money.

  10. ALman says:

    Just in time for Christmas, it’s the BiPolar Express!

    BiPolar??? Well, no wonder it’s costing so much. I thought it was to run just in california, not between the two “poles”!

  11. Joy says:

    I thought I had read that Democrat Governor Moonbeam had unilaterally waived the requirement for an environmental impact study.

    I wasn’t aware that Democrat Senator Fienstein’s husband owned the company being paid the $600 million but am not at all surprised.

  12. Drew the Infidel says:

    Remember when Obhammud said that, at some point, you have made enough money? At what point might he surmise that enough has been stolen?