California pushes deadline for high-speed rail project

By Jenny LescohierFebruary 08, 2021

California’s high-speed rail project will connect Los Angeles with San Francisco

California is once again pushing back the deadline for its high-speed rail project and now asking the Biden administration for a one-year extension for finishing a section of track in the Central Valley, the Associated Press reported.

In a letter released February 5 alongside the project’s updated business plan, Brian Kelly, the project’s chief executive officer, detailed delays and cost changes. He’s set to discuss it February 9 at a meeting of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board of directors.

Reports said California now expects to complete construction on a 119-mile segment of track from Bakersfield to Madera in the Central Valley by 2023. Some of the money is tied to meeting a federal 2022 deadline, prompting the request for an extension. The budget for that segment of track is expected to jump from $12.4 to $13.8 billion, Kelly wrote.

The business plan, a guiding document for the project released every two years, was set to be approved last year but delayed due to the pandemic; it is now expected to be approved in April.

This is one more setback for the project that’s been plagued by postponed deadlines and cost overruns. Voters in 2008 approved a bond for the project, eventually aimed at connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco. As officials work on constructing the Central Valley segment, they are also pursuing environmental approvals for the rest of the line.

The state hopes the Biden administration will give back nearly $1 billion in grant money cancelled by former President Donald Trump’s administration, according to reports.

Pete Buttigieg, the new transportation secretary, has not commented specifically on California’s project. But he said recently on MSNBC that high-speed rail will be an administration priority.

“I want the U.S. to be leading the world when it comes to access to high-speed rail,” he said.

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