Construction of California’s Stonehenge Costing $3.1 Million Per Day


Historian Victor Davis Hanson coined a great nickname for California’s Bullet Train construction project, calling it “California’s Stonehenge.” The project is proving to be a very costly monument to the ego of state politicians.

How costly? California’s high-speed rail project is back in the news thanks to the Los Angeles Times‘ Ralph Vartabedian’s reporting on the ever-escalating cost of the troubled project, where the construction bills are now topping $3.1 million per day:

The California bullet train project has cost state taxpayers an average $3.1 million a day over the last year—a construction spending rate higher than that for the Bay Bridge, Boston’s Big Dig or any U.S. transportation project in recent history.

But still it’s not enough, planners say.

Yikes! How much would be enough for the planners?

In order to hit its 2033 deadline and $77-billion budget, the California High Speed Rail Authority will have to increase daily spending by up to nine times over the next four years or risk putting the already-delayed system further behind.

If that seems crazy, that’s because it is. At least, according to some professional civil engineers.

“That burn rate is ludicrous,” said civil engineer James Moore, director of USC’s transportation engineering program. “It is so far outside standard experience that it doesn’t make sense to assume it will occur.”

I would never doubt the ability of politicians determined to spend money at rates that have never before been achieved for an infrastructure project. Right now, California is trying to build the easiest part of its already-scaled back high-speed rail system, over flat land with relatively few obstacles, and it is costing California’s taxpayers over $3.1 million per day. Just imagine how big the daily bills will become once they get to the modestly difficult parts of the construction, or to the parts that will be technically challenging.

But if they cannot, all they would need is to further delay the completion date of California’s bullet train project beyond the 13 years that it has already been delayed. Or cut back the amount of track they will build even more than the 123 miles that they’ve already subtracted from the original plan in transforming it into the current scheme.

Or both. No matter what, until the project is permanently canceled, the one thing that can be guaranteed is that its cost will grow even higher than the $77 billion it is slated to cost California taxpayers today.

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Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and the creator of the Government Cost Calculator at MyGovCost.org.

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