California High-Speed Passenger Rail: Project Estimates Could Be Improved to Better Inform Future Decisions, Report to Congressional Requesters   [open pdf - 1MB]

From the Highlights: "The planned 520-mile California high-speed rail project, which would link San Francisco to Los Angeles, would be designed to operate at speeds up to 220 miles per hour. At an estimated cost of $68.4 billion (in year-of-expenditure dollars), it is expected to be one of the most expensive transportation projects undertaken in the United States. The Authority is responsible for implementing the project and federal funding is being provided from the FRA's [Federal Railroad Administration] High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program. GAO [Government Accountability Office] reviewed (1) the reliability of project cost estimates, (2) the reasonableness of revenue and passenger rail ridership forecasts, (3) the risks attendant with the project's funding plan, and (4) the comprehensiveness with which the project's economic impacts were identified. GAO obtained documents from and conducted interviews with federal officials and officials from the Authority related to cost, financing, ridership and revenue modeling and estimation, and business plans and analyses related to potential economic impacts. GAO also interviewed state and local officials as well as the project's peer review group members. […] To produce reliable cost estimates, FRA should improve its guidance so it is in line with the best practices in GAO's 'Cost Guide.' The Department of Transportation did not agree or disagree with the recommendation but said, with further analysis, applying the 'Cost Guide' would be feasible. The Authority said it will incorporate many of the report's findings into future cost and ridership estimates."

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Government Accountability Office: http://www.gao.gov/
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