California Bullet Train Suffers From a “Number of Miscalculations”

The LA Times reports today about a minor little cost overrun on the California bullet train. Over the course of five years, the cost of utility relocations along a short section of track near Fresno increased nearly 6x, from $69 million to $396 million:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority board on Friday took up the problem, hearing from its staff that the original estimate contained a number of miscalculations. The number of linear feet of utilities that have to be moved was underestimated, as was the cost per foot for the job, according to a staff memo. Then, there were utilities that nobody even knew were in the ground. The authority changed its mind about some of the work, as well, the report said.

….The history of the utility relocations suggests some turmoil in management decisions — which the rail authority staff said it would not repeat in the future….The staff said that “best management practices,” along with a new database, will enable it to better estimate costs in the future. “Additionally, the assumption that utilities will perform relocations will not be repeated,” the staff memo said.

No worries! This won’t be repeated in the future! I feel relieved.

The California bullet train is obviously one of my bugaboos, and I figure that all bloggers are entitled to one or two. But seriously, reading this stuff makes me wonder if anyone involved in this boondoggle has any experience whatsoever with large construction projects, let alone high-speed rail projects.

POSTSCRIPT: In fairness, I want to note that that this is not, strictly speaking, a new cost overrun. It’s all part of the “worst-case scenario” unveiled in January.