The American difficulty in building and funding major infrastructure projects, California high-speed train edition

The cost and time needed to build a high-speed rail line in California keeps increasing:

Photo by David Dibert on Pexels.com

A New York Times review of hundreds of pages of documents, engineering reports, meeting transcripts and interviews with dozens of key political leaders show that the detour through the Mojave Desert was part of a string of decisions that, in hindsight, have seriously impeded the state’s ability to deliver on its promise to create a new way of transporting people in an era of climate change…

When California voters first approved a bond issue for the project in 2008, the rail line was to be completed by 2020, and its cost seemed astronomical at the time — $33 billion — but it was still considered worthwhile as an alternative to the state’s endless web of freeways and the carbon emissions generated.

Fourteen years later, construction is underway on part of a 171-mile “starter” line connecting a few cities in the middle of California, which has been promised for 2030.

Meanwhile, costs have continued to escalate. When the California High-Speed Rail Authority issued its new 2022 draft business plan in February, it estimated an ultimate cost as high as $105 billion. Less than three months later, the “final plan” raised the estimate to $113 billion.

This is not the first time this has happened in the United States. Many major projects, ranging from highway construction to tunnels to bridges, involve expanding timelines and budgets. Even though people may not care as much about these changes once the project is done and things work, the extra time and money comes from somewhere and can affect a lot of people.

There must be some major projects that are completed on time and on budget. Are these properly celebrated?

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