State Auditor says high-speed rail’s financial projections are 'increasingly risky'

Another day, another scathing report on the state’s high-speed rail project.

The California High Speed Rail Authority’s financial plan has become increasingly risky. The agency continues to struggle with oversight and there are concerns about accurate projected ridership numbers, according to a new report by State Auditor Elaine Howe.

The report pointed out that cost projections for the undertaking have ballooned to as much as $117 billion, but only $12.5 billion has been identified so far for the plan. The estimates also fail to include maintenance and operating expenses for phase one of the project, which could cost as much as $96.8 billion between 2025 and 2060.

The auditor has recommended that the Authority provide a clear funding plan, establish an independent group to project ridership totals, fill vacant staffing positions and hire a risk manager as soon as possible.

The state auditor’s report is the latest in a series of scathing reviews of the project, which is supposed to one day connect travelers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in just over 2 ½ hours.

Earlier this month, a peer review group recommended that billions in state bond money should be withheld for the project, and both Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Dianne Feinstein have said that the Authority should be folded and absorbed into a new state agency that includes Caltrans and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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