The California Legislature is not in session.
Today it is all about High Speed Rail.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority seeks to answer its doubters today, unveiling a new business plan at 11 a.m. at a spot that showcases a different kind of train – the California State Railroad Museum.
The Sacramento Press Club, which saw the authority cancel an announcement event twice, has to be feeling snubbed, but at least the visuals will be better. Authority Chair Tom Umberg will be there, along with board members Dan Richard, Mike Rossi and Jim Hartnett, and CEO Roelof van Ark.
Much is riding on the reception to the plan, which needs legislative approval to proceed with building the first phase of the project in the Central Valley.
On to today’s headlines:
Cost projection for California bullet train jumps to nearly $100 billion
California’s bullet train will cost an estimated $98.5 billion to build over the next 20 years, an amount far higher than any previous projection, according to a business plan scheduled to be unveiled Tuesday.
The estimate includes possible future inflation that will drive up the cost of the line, which would send trains at up to 220 mph from Southern California to the Bay Area.
The cost growth results in large part from a major revision in the construction schedule. In the past, the state assumed the system would be completed by 2020 but now assumes construction would be finished in 2033. That stretched-out schedule and an assumption that future inflation would average 3% per year are two key reasons the overall estimated cost of the system almost doubled in the new business plan.
In the past, the California High Speed Rail Authority has estimated the cost of the system would be $43 billion, based on construction being finished in 2020.
The California High Speed Rail Authority, the state agency running the project, plans to unveil the new business plan at a news conference Tuesday morning in Sacramento.
The authority’s past two plans have been sharply attacked, not only by opponents but many supporters, for offering unrealistic construction cost and ridership figures. The authority wants to begin construction next year and hopes to gain approval from the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown for appropriations from a bond issue that would build a $6.3-billion segment from Fresno to Bakersfield.
The price of the system has long been a moving target.
When the first business plan surfaced, it projected a $34-billion cost. By 2009, the estimate had jumped to $43 billion, in part because the authority included future inflation in the estimated cost of building the system over the next decade.
Calif. rail project to cost $98B
The new business plan for California’s high-speed rail system shows the nation’s most ambitious state rail project could cost nearly $100 billion in inflation-adjusted funding over a 20-year construction period, according to a draft copy of the plan shared late Monday with The Associated Press.
But the plan also says the system would be profitable even at the lowest ridership estimates and wouldn’t require public operating subsidies.
The report estimates the actual cost at $98.5 billion if the route between San Francisco and Anaheim is completed in 2033. The plan assumes private investment will account for roughly 20 percent of the total cost, with much of the rest coming from additional borrowing.
The initial estimate to build the system when voters approved bond funding for it in 2008 was $43 billion. In non-adjusted, 2010 dollars that amount is now $65.4 billion, showing the costs have risen significantly.
“This is us telling it like it is to the public – no sugar-coating, no baloney,” said Dan Richard, one of two appointees Gov. Jerry Brown made to the California High-Speed Rail Authority last summer.
The business plan will be publicly released Tuesday during a news conference at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.
It also calls for retaining the most controversial aspect of the proposed rail line – starting construction in the Central Valley. Critics want to start in more populated areas of southern or northern California in case money runs out before the full system is finished, which they worry would create a “train to nowhere.”
Frank McCourt appears close to agreeing he’ll sell Dodgers
After a two-year battle to keep the Dodgers through a bruising divorce and a bankruptcy filing, owner Frank McCourt appears close to agreement with Major League Baseball on a bankruptcy settlement in which he would agree to sell the team.
McCourt would get some control over the sale, people familiar with the negotiations said Monday. The purchase probably would include Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots in a package that could command a record price of $1 billion or more.
The negotiations are fluid, and settlement talks could fall apart at any time, said the people, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the confidential discussions. McCourt has not reached any final decision to sell, another person cautioned.
Dodgers spokesman Robert Siegfried, asked Monday whether a settlement appears close, said the team had no comment “to such kinds of inquiries.” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney also declined to comment.
McCourt has long vowed not to surrender the Dodgers. In April, as Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a trustee to oversee the team and attendance plummeted at Dodger Stadium, McCourt insisted he would not sell.
However, analysts suggested McCourt now might be willing to sell for a simple reason: Even if he won in court, he could lose.
Occupy Oakland: City braces for general strike
From schools and downtown stores to the nation’s fifth busiest port, Oakland is bracing for Wednesday’s citywide general strike, a hastily planned and ambitious action called by Occupy protesters a day after police forcibly removed their City Hall encampment last week.
Occupy Oakland has since returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza, but the leaderless group is still asking workers and students in the city to take the day off to come downtown and protest economic inequality and corporate greed.
Major goals will be protesting at banks or corporations that refuse to shut down for the day, then marching in the evening to the Port of Oakland to try to shut down the night shift.
Some employees and businesses downtown, where the core activities are scheduled, intend to participate, while others plan to carry on as normal – hoping there won’t be a resumption of last week’s violent clashes between protesters and police.
“The entire world is tired of the greedy corporations controlling everything, and now is the time that people are doing something about it,” rapper Boots Riley, an organizer of the strike day, said Monday. “All over the world, people are looking to Oakland.”
Enjoy your morning!