Anyone who thinks the high-speed rail project will be completed within the cost figures projected by the rail authority, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Of course, the promise to taxpayers on the cost of the rail was broken ages ago. Remember, voters were told if they supported a nearly $10-billion bond to help build the bullet train the overall project would cost about $33 billion with other financial help coming from the private sector (which hasn’t come)?

Low-ball a project cost and the suckers will ante-up.

The cost soared to $99 billion after the vote for the bond before being readjusted downward to $68 billion—until a new report just issued from an federal agency says the cost overrun is $3.6 billion—and that applies only to the first phase of the project. The Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis projected the 118 mile leg from north of Bakersfield to Merced could cost up to $10 billion instead of the budgeted $6.4 billion.A deep dive analysis into the progress of the high-speed rail is overdue. Last legislative session, Gov. Brown vetoed a bill by Assemblyman Jim Patterson that would have required the rail authority to identify financing costs for each segment of the rail system. A request by Sen. Andy Vidak to audit the rail project was turned aside in committee.

The Federal Railroad Administration look at the status of the rail construction, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, indicates that not only does the budget face cost overruns but also that the project completion deadlines are unlikely to be met.

Enough already.

California has an infrastructure problem, no doubt. But the high-speed rail should not be where the infrastructure fix is focused.

The governor’s budget again attempts to bring concern over dilapidated infrastructure to the fore after a failed special session to find ways to fund infrastructure improvements. Concentration should be placed on fixing roads and highways instead of a pie-in-the-sky plan whose projections on ridership and revenue projections are likely as overblown as the cost has been underestimated from the beginning.

The California High Speed Rail Authority pushed back against the new report—weakly. The authority offered a U.S. Treasury Department report issued the end of last year encouraging infrastructure investment to spur growth. No argument there—but the infrastructure improvements must be made where they will do the most good.

The rail Authority also argued that the train building was creating jobs and pointed to a 50% drop in unemployment in the Fresno area from 18% in 2011 to 9% in 2016. Was it the high-speed rail that caused the drop in unemployment or the improvement in the overall California economy? According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics,  unemployment across the entire state of California dropped 56%, from a high of 12% in 2011 to 5.3% today.

Change focus away from the high-speed rail and use funds to stimulate the creation of a real infrastructure improvement program for the roads and highways. Can the rail program be abandoned now that it has begun? Or was the strategy all along to get it started then it cannot be stopped?