California’s high-speed rail project has not yet hit a high gear. Delays and cost overruns have hampered the endeavor since the start, and the project’s chief executive officer has announced another deadline will not be met.
Brian Kelly is expected to give the California High Speed Rail Authority an update on Feb. 9, but has already stated the 119-mile track from Bakersfield to Madera will not be complete until 2023. Furthermore, the price for the segment will rise from $12.4 billion to $13.8 billion.
At stake is federal funding. The project has a 2022 deadline in order to receive federal assistance, and the Biden administration is going to be asked to approve a one-year extension. Relations with the White House are expected to improve, and with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently announcing a push to make high-speed rail in the U.S. the best in the world, it is likely that the extension will be granted. California also hopes it will receive $1 billion in grant money that was cancelled by the Trump administration.
Kelly is blaming the COVID-19 pandemic for the failure to meet the latest deadline. The need to quarantine workers, a delay in procuring rights of way due to shortened court hours, a delay in signing contracts and the loss of $288 million in revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program have all been negative outcomes over the past year, according to Kelly.
Over the next several months, 22 miles of track is expected to be completed that will run through Kern County. Environmental approval also should happen in Los Angeles County and a track and systems contract should be awarded.