California's High Speed Rail project will require some high speed spending in order to meet the deadline for federal funding.
The first phase of the bullet train track through the Central Valley would cost $6 billion, and federal laws would impose a deadline of September 2017 to prevent a loss of federal funds. Do the math, and that comes out to about $3.5 million per day in spending, including weekends and holidays. At that rate, the high speed rail project would have the fastest construction rate of any transportation project in U.S. history.
According to the Los Angeles Times, before construction can start, the California High Speed rail authority needs as many as 120 permits, and must acquire more than a thousand parcels of land, some of which are owned by agricultural corporations who have already threatened to sue. If the project falls behind, it risks losing funding and could potentially leave a stretch of unfinished track.
The Rail Authority admits it's an aggressive timeline, but insists it's not unheard of, citing other projects like the new Bay Bridge span in Oakland. That project cost $6.5 billion, but by the time it's finished in 2013, the construction rate will be $1.8 million per day -- more than half the rate the rail project would be attempting.
Outside experts say the Rail Authority does not have the cards stacked in its favor. An environmental report on the 130-mile Fresno-to-Bakersfield section is far behind schedule. Officials also have to assemble five construction teams: four to build the rail beds, and a fifth to install the steel rails.
Construction on the High Speed Rail project is tentatively slated to begin in September, pending legislative approval.