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California high-speed rail, derailed: $98.5 billion, 2033 completion

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California's high-speed rail system will now cost twice as much to build, take 13 years longer than planned and offer fares for almost double the original estimate. Is America's HSR dream dead?

Plans for California's high-speed rail took another one on the chin yesterday as state planners announced that the project would cost more than twice its last estimate -- now a jaw-dropping $98.5 billion -- and would be completed 13 years behind schedule.

The original cost was estimated in 2008 to be $33 billion and scheduled for completion in 2020.

The line -- which would run from San Francisco to Anaheim at up to 250 miles per hour -- would allow travelers to zip across the sate in just three hours and for only $55 per way.

But the project has seen nothing but speed bumps along the way: Central Valley residents were up in arms over the proposal and the financial plan for the project was revealed to have taken liberties in estimated ridership and revenue.

But the Associated Press reports that Dan Richard, newly appointed to the California High Speed Rail Authority, is working with Bank of America vice chairman Michael Rossi to make the project viable once more.

The new plan? Build the system in independent segments that connect to existing light rail and train service, reducing top speed to 220 m.p.h. and raising fares to $95 for a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The West Coast vision for transportation of the future sounds a lot like the East Coast's present Amtrak arrangement. Is another Acela worth the trouble?

To date, $10 billion has been awarded by Congress for high-speed rail around the country, including projects in Florida and Illinois. But the legislative body is expected to curtail that to almost nothing in 2012.

[via The Daily]

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure