California

HSR boss pushes back on claims bullet train governed by “Fantasyland plan”

Facing stiff, and growing, resistance from lawmakers in Sacramento, Brian Kelly, the four-year chief of California’s struggling high-speed rail project, pushed back on assertions that the agency turned over its “worst business plan” since voters approved the bullet train in 2008.

The plan, released in early February, and revealed that the price tag for the project had risen by another $5 billion from two years ago, bringing the total cost to $105 billion.

Initially, when voters approved high-speed rail in 2008, the total cost was expected to be between $33-40 billion. 

Sunday, Kelly spoke with Alexan Balekian of KSEE 24, addressing the worst-report-yet claim by Asm. Jim Patterson (R–Fresno), a longtime staunch critic of the project.

Kelly described the senior Republican as being “consistent in his view of our project.”

“The reality is this business plan works off of a business plan we submitted to the legislature just 10 months ago,” Kelly told Balekian. “It includes a full budget update from where we were 10 months ago to where we are now. It incorporates our estimate for finishing the environmental work, extending the project south out of the Central Valley and into Palmdale and the L.A. Basin. It’s a reflection of us advancing work.”

Clearing through environmental clearances, particularly the state’s top environmental law – CEQA – has proven to be one of its top challenges.

Kelly noted that the system has “more than 300 miles of this more than 500-mile system cleared” through environmental approvals. An additional 130 miles is set to be cleared by July.

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.