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California's high-speed rail project is threatened by erratic financing, the state's precarious financial situation and management shortcomings and should be overhauled, the Legislature's budget analyst said Tuesday.

The highly critical report by Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor's office concluded that management of the project be shifted from the state High-Speed Rail Authority into the Department of Transportation and the entire program undergo reevaluation -- especially the decision to build an initial segment in the San Joaquin Valley.

The report details "a number of problems that pose threats to the high-speed rail project's successful development" and adds: "The Legislature faces some challenging choices about whether to continue with a project that, despite the problems outlined above, could have some reductions in spending for transportation improvements as well as air quality and other environmental benefits."

Gov. Jerry Brown has asked for an $185 million appropriation to keep the project moving, but the analyst says only $7 million should be approved "at this time" while managerial and operational questions are answered.

The report was the latest in a string of critical outside examinations of the project, which envisions high-speed trains connecting Northern California with the south part of the state through the San Joaquin Valley. The project's lack of a cogent business plan and its ridership projections have been sharply criticized in official reviews and there are numerous fights over specific routes, especially on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Rail authority CEO Roelof van Ark issued a statement on the report saying he believes the project "has been successful thus far because it has strived to operate more like a private business than a typical government bureaucracy."

"I hope to work with the Legislature to come up with solutions that benefit all Californians and allow us to move forward with the successful completion of the state's high-speed rail system - and we hope that this report at least encourages healthy discussion towards that goal," he said.

The full report can be found here.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 12:53 p.m. with a statement from van Ark.


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