SAN FRANCISCO —The projected price tag for California’s planned high-speed rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles has been cut by a third.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced a revised and final business plan Monday that pegs the overall cost of building a 500-mile bullet-train system at $68 billion, or $30 billion less than its estimate last fall of $98 billion.
That estimate last fall has been a marked increase from a previous projection of $45 billion.
“We need to do big things to maintain our place as one of the world’s biggest economies,” CHSRA board chairman Dan Richard said during a press conference in Fresno Monday.
The authority said much of the new savings would come from incorporating the fast trains into other state railroads.
The first segment of the high-speed rail line would still just be built in the Central Valley, roughly from Fresno to Bakersfield.
It would be funded with $3.3 billion of federal money and $2.7 billion of authorized bond funds, according to the revised plan.
The early part of the project would include early investment in the “bookends” of the system in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles to help upgrade urban commuter railroads. But the first operating section of the rail line was revised to link the Central Valley to extend to the Los Angeles Basin, specifically Palmdale, in 10 years.
Richard said that so-called cap-and-trade funds from the state would be available to help back high-speed rail.
The proposed plan still needs approval from the authority’s board, which will meet on April 12, and appropriation of bond funds from the state Legislature.
High-speed rail has faced criticism from state lawmakers partly because of its price tag and because it does not initially connect to the two largest population centers.
Gov. Jerry Brown has said he would ask the Legislature to approve the bond money.
Lawmakers created the rail authority in 1996 to plan a high-speed passenger train system to link the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay regions.
In 2008, voters approved a $9.95 billion general obligation bond measure to seed construction. So far, $300 million of state GO bonds have been issued for the authority.
The revised plan assumes $8.2 billion of the bond money would be used for construction after other costs, such as preliminary design, engineering, and administrative work.
The authority’s long-term business model relies on the idea of a public-private partnership to design, build, operate and maintain a high-speed system, supported by both public money and future revenues.
Karen Hedlund, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, also spoke during the ceremony, and restated President Obama’s commitment to high-speed rail in California and nationally.
California’s fast-rail aspirations helped spur funding fights in Congress, where Republicans in the House targeted the project as an example of waste. The federal government has spent $10 billion over the past three years on high-speed rail around the country.
The Department of Transportation is also making up to $100 million available for fast rail in the latest round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant funding.