HSR Construction May Be Delayed To 2014
Factors outside the control of the California High Speed Rail Authority may cause the start of construction to be delayed to early 2014:
The hold-ups include delays in getting a construction company under contract and a lack of key federal permits, according to the Los Angeles Times. The delays could push up costs, ballooning the price tag beyond the current $68 billion estimate….
The project also lacks approval for key sections, such as the bridge over the Fresno River. That section requires a full study of how a bridge will affect the river’s flow.
Other impacts on rivers and waterways will also need study, in some cases requiring supplemental environmental studies, approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a plan to offset damage to wetlands.
“Those are normal-course-of-business permits that the Authority is working to obtain,” said Authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley.
The federal permit approvals could come more quickly than the article implies. And those permits could have been ready sooner were it not for efforts by Republicans in Sacramento and in Congress to obstruct the project.
Still, we’ve already seen HSR critics and opponents cite these latest obstacles as yet another reason why the HSR project is supposedly a bad idea, even though these issues are not the fault of the Authority itself. These same issues would crop up and delay a Hyperloop, were anyone to ever decide to actually fund it. This is what happens to major infrastructure projects in the United States, where things like permit approvals and environmental studies are not coordinated between the responsible agencies.
The Obama Administration has done much to help address these issues, helping the California HSR project negotiate the minefield of federal regulations. The Surface Transportation Board could have been a huge obstacle but instead has proved an asset to the project.
While no delay is welcome, and the timeline for completion becomes tighter, it’s also the case that construction in the Central Valley is not a particularly difficult challenge given the straightforward geography. The project is still on track to be completed on schedule.