Without a concrete plan for funding, proponents of a California high-speed rail project began pitching their plan this week to legislators and the general public. Updated from a previous proposal, the new plan narrows the scope of the project and intends to speed up construction to save money. However, despite the spending reductions, the rail still leans on shaky funding sources that might never materialize.
The revised proposal would reduce its price tag by merging the rail with commuter lines in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas. Around $1 billion in voter-approved bonds will be available to upgrade existing tracks, which state officials claim will make rail service more efficient and potentially attract more customers.
"This project, like the state highway system or the water project, will transform the California economy and help it remain one of the most innovative in the world," said Michael Rossi, a member of the rail authority board and adviser to California Governor Jerry Brown (D).
The newly minted plan expedites completion of the first true U.S. high-speed rail system, moving it to 2028, trimming the project timeline by five years and shaving $30 billion off the original budget drafted last year by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. In 2008, when residents first voted to authorize the bonds, they were told the overall cost of the project would be $45 billion — and four years later, the total became $98 billion. The new proposal has reduced that number to $68.4 billion, still $23.4 billion more than the original total.
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