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High-Speed Rail Board Chair: Lower Cost, More Bond Funds Up Front

The new head of California’s high-speed rail project is promising a lower cost projection in the upcoming business plan due out next month. But it’s likely lawmakers will be asked to approve more state bond funds this year than previously thought.

Lawmakers have been expecting a vote to approve 2-point-7 billion dollars in bond sales this year from voter-approved Proposition 1A. But in an interview with Capital Public Radio, California High-Speed Rail Authority Board Chair Dan Richard said that number could go up. "It might," said Richard. "It might well, but I think at this point that makes sense."

That's because the Authority is revamping its strategy after the cost zoomed up to nearly 100 billion dollars. Richard said the revised business plan will focus not only on the first track-building phase in the Central Valley - but also on regional projects in the Bay Area and Los Angeles that would benefit high-speed rail too. He said that, in turn, would help reduce the overall cost.

"I think you'll see us bringing that number down - not because we've sprinkled pixie dust on it because it was a controversial number, but by showing people that hey, if we make this change here, that change here, these are the specific savings associated with them."

Richard also said the extra bond funds would help get those regional projects started. Lawmakers in both parties have criticized the project's cost and feasibility. Some call it a "boondoggle" and a "train to nowhere."

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