Reports rise almost weekly about missed construction deadlines and other time problems for California’s embattled bullet train project, which hopes to see passengers move between Los Angeles and San Francisco in well under three hours sometime around 2030.
But the state’s High Speed Rail Authority, charged with spending almost $10 billion in state bond money approved by voters nine years ago, along with federal grant money and other funds from state sources like the cap-and-trade program, denies it has missed a single deadline.
“We have not missed any completion dates,” insists project spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley. The authority even issued a press release announcing it met all federal timing requirements for more than $2.55 billion in 2009 grant money, while generating $4 billion in economic activity in the state.
And yet, no portion of the project, which will eventually also see terminals in Anaheim and Sacramento is anywhere near completion. It’s possible none will be completed if the myriad lawsuits against the project ever succeed.
That’s one reason a report on the Breitbart News California website looked credible at first glance recently, when it said the authority had extended a deadline for prime contract work by the Tutor-Perini/Zachry/Parsons consortium on the 32-mile first stretch between Madera and south Fresno. Breitbart also said the consortium got an 18 percent raise amounting to almost $8 million for that stretch.
Well … not exactly. The HSR directors actually increased the contingency fund for work on their first segment by $35 million; none earmarked for the TPZP group. The money, said the directors, will “address short-term needs and avoid delaying … critical activities through November.” As of early November, Alley said, the contractors had received none of that money. Nor were any deadlines extended.
So much for the accuracy of “fake news” critic Stephen Bannon, the former top adviser to President Trump who heads Breitbart.
All this, however, begs the question of whether the project can really be on time, as officials claim, when not even one short segment is finished more than two years after construction began.
Which leads to a simple question: Why not put time incentives into bullet train contracts? This is perfectly legal (“We could opt to do that, but … have not done so,” said Alley) and has been effective when the state did use it.
The best examples of incentives speeding work without increasing…