High Speed Train Off Track

California bullet train faces environmental challenges

California’s $68 billion high-speed rail project could be derailed due to a host of environmental concerns, including endangering protected animals and fouling the Golden State’s air and water.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Eleven endangered species, including the San Joaquin kit fox, would be affected, according to federal biologists. Massive emissions from diesel-powered heavy equipment could foul the already filthy air. Dozens of rivers, canals and wetlands fed from the rugged peaks of the Sierra Nevada would be crossed, creating other knotty issues.

A wide array of state and federal agencies is examining those effects and, over the next several months, will issue scientific findings that could affect the cost and schedule of construction. Beyond the regulators, environmental lawsuits brought by the powerful California agriculture industry are threatening to further delay work.

The state rail authority is trying to push ahead with an urgent plan to start construction of a 130-mile segment from Madera to Bakersfield as early as December, arguing that any delays could put more than $2 billion of federal funding at risk. Even if the Legislature appropriates the state's share of money this summer, the construction schedule will depend on friendly and quick decisions by often tough regulators.

A non-partisan government analyst in California has recommended that the state cancel its construction of a $68 billion high-speed rail line.

Congressional investigators are also probing the project for possible conflicts of interest with rail operators and contractors.

The Obama administration set aside $10 billion in stimulus funds for high-speed rail projects, but so far, none of them have come to fruition. President Obama set a goal of providing 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.