Written by Gabriel Dillard
The state auditor’s report last week detailing mismanagement of the high-speed rail project confirms what many of us have heard anecdotally or felt in our gut. More importantly, it should give pause to the project’s cheerleaders who believe it should become reality at any cost.
In this case, the cost is billions of dollars in overruns and delays.
The audit report paints a picture of project managers flying by the seat of their pants to start construction, never mind that the land had not been acquired, no plan for relocating utilities had not been formed and key stakeholders –including railroad operators –were not on board. Those blunders cost $600 million in contract changes alone.
The bill due to taxpayers isn’t even complete –the report estimates contract changes will add up to another $1.6 billion in costs.
That cost will be borne by hardworking taxpayers and business owners in the state long before any conductor gives the “all aboard” call on the inaugural ride.
There’s still the problem of fully funding the estimated $77 billion project, a figure even the auditor acknowledges will likely rise.
The wise move would be to cut our losses and move on. But as the spending spree chugs along, that’s seeming more and more like stopping a speeding freight train with a butterfly net.