SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The costs are up, the timeline is longer and major unanswered questions remain in the latest business plan for California’s proposed bullet train. Here’s a look at what’s changed since the last time the California High Speed Rail Authority updated its business plan in 2016:
ROUTE — Officials now plan to build the first operating line between downtown San Francisco and Bakersfield. The prior plan called for tracks that begin in San Jose and terminate north of Bakersfield. Officials hope the slightly longer route between cities — with stops throughout the Central Valley — will drive more commuters and other riders to the train once it opens. Crews then plan to extend south from Bakersfield to downtown Los Angeles and Anaheim.
COSTS — The total cost to link Anaheim and San Francisco is now pegged at $77.3 billion, up 20 percent from two years ago. The business plan notes the cost could be as low as $63.2 billion or as high as $98.1 billion. Factors driving the higher costs include construction delays, unexpected costs and larger contingency funds. For now, though, the focus is on building the Silicon Valley to Central Valley link at an estimated cost of $25.1 billion to $36.8 billion.
TIMELINE — Voters were told in 2008 that the full San Francisco to Anaheim line could be running by 2020. Officials are now aiming for 2029, and only to Bakersfield. They offer vague hopes of finishing the whole system by 2033.
CHALLENGES — Money and mountains present the biggest hurdles. Rail officials plan to build two lines — one linking San Francisco and Gilroy on the west side of the coastal range and another from Bakersfield to Madera east of the mountains. That alone will require a tough vote in the Legislature to guarantee decades of funding for high-speed rail. And officials concede that there’s no firm plan for how to pay for a tunnel through the mountains to link those two lines.