Brown Omits $6 Billion Cost Overrun in Bullet-Train Pitch to Trump

California governor invites president to see high-speed train

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March 13, 2018

California governor Jerry Brown's half-mocking push to win President Donald Trump's affection for the state's $10.6 billion-dollar bullet-train failed to mention that the project is projected to cost at least $6 billion more than originally planned, according to a new estimate consultants on the project announced Friday.

The main consultant on the mammoth cross-state project last week said its latest budget woes are the result of a "worst-case scenario," driven by higher costs for land acquisition, issues in moving utility systems, and the need for safety barriers near freight lines, as well as legal and environmental mitigation for various landowners and stakeholders.

The latest budget setback earned front-page news in most California newspapers over the weekend, but Brown left out the project's ever-expanding price tag in his Monday letter to Trump.

Brown invited Trump to visit the state's Central Valley do see the high-speed rail line's construction during his trip to California, the president's first since his 2016 campaign. Trump on Tuesday will view the border-wall prototypes in San Diego and attend a Beverly Hills fundraiser.

"You have lamented that 'We don't have one fast train' in our country," Brown wrote. "Well, Mr. President, in California we are trying to fix that. We have a world-class train system under construction."

"We invite you to come aboard and truly 'Make America Great Again,'" he added.

It's unlikely that Brown and Trump will meet during the president's visit given the recent clashes between the two. Brown last week called the Justice Department's lawsuit against the state's sanctuary law part of a "reign of terror" against California.

Brown also highlighted California's "thriving" economy, reminding the president that it is the "sixth largest in the world," and took a direct shot at Trump's efforts to build a border wall and his planned Tuesday visit to prototypes for the wall in San Diego.

"California thrives because we welcome immigrants and innovators across the globe," Brown wrote. "You see in California, we are focusing on bridges, not walls."

It is unlikely the Trump will swoop in and save Brown's struggling pet project, despite his campaign pledge to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and complaints about the state of the nation's bridges, airports, and roads.

Brown and other California Democrats teamed up with President Barack Obama in 2010 to provide more than $2.5 billion federal economic stimulus for the high-speed train project.

California Republicans, on the other hand, have labeled the effort a massive spending boondoggle that would require heavy government subsidies to operate with no realistic expectations that riders would utilize it enough to offset the annual costs.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) on Monday referred to the train as a "high speed fail" and tweeted at Brown that "no amount of political theater can hide the enormous flaws that plague [the train].

"It's time to scrap this train to nowhere," he tweeted, adding a video montage of news stories about the train's ballooning costs.

After construction of the main line of the project missed a Sept. 30 deadline, McCarthy called the bullet train a "colossal waste" of taxpayer dollars that is still not "ready for primetime."

"Turning a blind eye to the evidence showing this project is not ready for primetime, is not just irresponsible, it's negligent," he said.

McCarthy also estimates the real price tag to complete the project as exceeding $60 billion. The original rail plan called for 14 million rider-trips a year originating in the state's rural Central Valley, but the number of rail and plane rides there have never exceeded a million annually, McCarthy has pointed out.

Despite Brown's pleas, Congress has provided no new money for the rail line since Republicans took the majority in the House.

McCarthy has said he intends to keep it that way.

"I'll continue to work to ensure this remains the case and no more federal taxpayer dollars are wasted on this project," he said last fall.

Originally, the full rail service had an opening date of 2022 but that has shifted to 2025 at the earliest. Connection points also switched from initial plans to build the rail between Merced and Los Angeles to a new route between Bakersfield and San Jose.

UPDATE 10:00 A.M.: This story has been updated to include Monday social media from McCarthy.