Feb. 2, 2018 – -An announcement earlier this month by the California Rail Authority that the costs of the first 119 miles of track in the Central Valley are estimated to increase to 77% over original projections has finally triggered ranking Democrats in the legislature to authorize the California State Auditor to review the project.
The scope of the audit was a partisan issue. Republican members of the joint legislative audit committee requested that the scope examine the ability for the future system to meet requirements of the 2008 bond that it operate without a state subsidy, and to examine the alternative economic benefits of other transportation projects. Both requests were denied. The California High-Speed Rail Authority will release its biennial business plan in the coming months, which should provide an updated analysis of the costs and timeline of the project.
The State Auditor last reviewed the project in 2012 and criticized risky funding and weak oversight of planning. Further audits and reviews were repeatedly requested by Republican legislators and denied by Democrat leadership. The audit is estimated to take up to nine months, incur 26,000 hours of staff time and cost $344,000.