Thursday, March 15, 2012

CHSRA head: HSR estimates overstated

Written by 

Though pledging to improve current plans for the Golden State's 700-mile high speed rail network, California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard says the system should cost less than the $100 billion touted by others, including project critics.

Addressing a state Senate hearing in Silicon Valley Tuesday, Richard said, "I believe the number's coming down," and added, "Obviously the $98 billion was sticker shock for a lot of people."

Using shared rights-of-way with state rail operators, such as Caltrain, and speeding up the construction schedule would bring down the costs of the project, Richard said. Richard promised more timely upgrades to Bay Area and Los Angeles regional passenger rail that would share the track and upgrading the initial leg of track in the Central Valley.

Richard said the agency would spend roughly $750 million in state funds in the next few years to help electrify the Caltrain line and $1 billion for similar regional passenger rail upgrades in Southern California, laying the foundation for bullet trains in those regions in an incremental approach.

The authority is expected to issue a final business plan this month that will provide detailed updates of costs, ridership estimates, projected revenue, and other factors.

The state legislature will debate the plan in the months ahead before voting in June on whether to spend $2.7 billion to match $3.3 billion in federal funds to start building in the Central Valley early next year.