Tuesday, April 03, 2012

CHSR revises business plan, cost estimate now at $68.4 billion

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The California High-Speed Rail Authority revised its Business Plan to launch high-speed rail service, capable of traveling 220 miles-per-hour, from Merced to the San Fernando Valley, within 10 years.

"In 10 years, Californians will be able to travel through the Central Valley and into the Los Angeles Basin in half the time it takes to drive," said California Governor Edmund Brown Jr. "This revised plan is bold, practical and puts California out in front once again."

"Our revised plan makes high-speed rail better, faster and cheaper," High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard told a news conference at the Southern Pacific Building in Fresno, Calif. "Drawing on hundreds of public comments, as well as the expertise of our technical staff, we were able to refine our thinking and improve the plan enormously. The revised plan will enhance local rail service immediately and, in the long-term, cut total project costs by $30 billion."

Under the revised 2012 Business Plan, construction begins this year on the 300-mile Initial Operating Section, stretching from Merced to the San Fernando Valley. This new plan also improves the safety and efficiency of existing urban rail systems. These improvements will bring immediate benefits to commuters and ultimately allow the integration of local systems with high-speed rail. The key changes to this revised business plan include:

· Constructing 300 miles of electrified rail from Merced to San Fernando Valley in 10 years
· Improving existing rail service in the Bay Area and Los Angeles regions to prepare those systems for high-speed rail service
· Cutting $30 billion in costs, through the blended approach, cost savings and inflation assumptions
· The potential to access cap & trade funds as a backstop to federal funding.

"Thanks to the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown and High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard, the new plan will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and deliver the economic benefits of high-speed rail faster and more affordably," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said.

Construction of the entire 520-mile rail system will finish in 2028, with service to begin in 2029. This improved system will cost $68.4 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars, a $30-billion reduction over the previous plan. Six billion dollars in funding has already been identified for the first segment of the Initial Operating Section, including $3.3 billion in federal funding and $2.7 billion in voter-approved Proposition 1A bond proceeds. Cap and trade funds are also available as a backstop against federal and local support to complete the initial operating section. No operating subsidy will be required.

"The California High-Speed Rail project is absolutely essential to California's future, from providing desperately needed transportation capacity to clean our air, to reducing congestion and stimulating economic activity," said Californians for High Speed Rail Co-Founder and Executive Director Daniel Krause. "While opponents have been running a relentless campaign of fear, doubt and uncertainty to give the impression the project is too risky, in fact, there is far more risk in not moving forward. It will cost much more to expand airports and freeways to create the same amount of transportation capacity. Additionally, borrowing costs will be offset by the requirement that any Prop 1A used must be matched by non-state source of funds, injecting billions of outside dollars into our state's economy. It is time to set the record straight, high-speed rail is truly the low-risk alternative."

The revised business plan must be approved by the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors, who will meet in San Francisco on April 12.

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