Rail costing

When we drove by the Expo Line construction on Flower St about last year this time, I said to one of my colleagues that I didn’t think there was any way the Expo Line was going to get done on schedule. He said “oh no, they’ll be done” perhaps forgetting that I used to consult on these types of projects and know the difference between “we broke up the streetscape to make it look like we are working” and “we’re actually working.”

The LA Times ran this story yesterday by Ari Bloomekatz. The cost estimate for the Expo Line went from $640 million to $862 million, and they are going to build less than they had costed out. The $862 million line will only go to Crenshaw instead of to Culver City. The original estimate per mile was just under $75 million. Depending on where they stop, the new estimate per mile hits at just under $90 million. It could be less–I don’t have the actual end reported on the revised project.

If we use these numbers to cost out HSR from LA to Fresno, the estimate comes out at $38 billion. Of if you use the original cost per mile figures, you get $32 billion. The California HSR authority’s cost estimate is $34 billion for HSR.

So something here isn’t right. Either we pay way too much to build light rail, a much lower-quality service than HSR, or the HSR cost estimates are whack, or both.