Bullet train plan much improved, but risks remain, panel says
The latest plan to build a California bullet train is a significant improvement over prior plans, but there remain significant risks that should be addressed if the Legislature appropriates money for the project, an independent review panel said Friday.
The panel said the plan to make early upgrades to urban rail systems that would later become blended with the bullet train system and to create an initial operating segment that would begin in Los Angeles sooner than previously scheduled would provide a quicker public benefit.
The review panel, led by Will Kempton, chief executive officer of the Orange County Transportation Authority, also said the California High Speed Rail Authority's 2012 business plan has a more realistic business model than past versions.
But the panel also issued a number of cautions, including recommending that the authority fill its vacant senior executive positions, disclose all of the risks it faces with regular reports to the Legislature and develop a better model for estimating ridership.
The panel again said future funding for construction is in question and raised concerns over the pace of construction.
Over the next decade, the rail authority would be making construction commitments of $4 billion to $5 billion annually.
"The Authority proposes to ramp-up almost immediately to a construction supervision burden that equals or exceeds that of Caltrans," it warned.
-- Ralph Vartabedian
Image: Artist's rendering of a proposed Cailfornia high-speed rail station. Credit: California High Speed Rail Authority.