Despite lowering the proposed cost of California's high-speed rail project to $68 billion, the Brown administration still relies on "highly speculative" funding for the project, the Legislative Analyst's Office said in a report today recommending that construction funding not be approved.
The nonpartisan LAO did recommend that the Legislature approve minimal funding to continue planning for the project.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority propose to use $2.6 billion in high-speed rail bond funds and $3.3 billion in federal funds to start construction in the Central Valley by early next year.
The LAO and other critics of the project have long questioned the authority's reliance on uncertain federal funding to complete the project, an objection raised by the LAO again today.
"Given the federal government's current financial situation and the current focus in Washington on reducing federal spending, it is uncertain if any further funding for the high-speed rail program will become available," the report said, which may be viewed online at this link.
The LAO also questioned whether the state could use revenue from its new cap-and-trade program for the rail project. Cap-and-trade money is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While the high-speed rail project could eventually help the state reduce emissions, the LAO said, it would not come online until after 2020, the year by which the state is trying to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals.
The LAO said the administration's shifting focus to rely on existing rail lines in urban areas could be positive. However, it said it is concerned changes to the plan "have been rushed with many important details not having been sorted out."
The LAO said the California High-Speed Rail Authority "has not made a strong enough case for going forward with the project at this time."
PHOTO CREDIT: A rendering of a high-speed train moving through a wind farm in the proposed high speed rail network. Courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority.