California Bullet Train Suffers From a “Number of Miscalculations”

This is an artist's conception. It will be a very long time before California has anything more than that.California High-Speed Rail Authority

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The LA Times reports today about a minor little cost overrun on the California bullet train. Over the course of five years, the cost of utility relocations along a short section of track near Fresno increased nearly 6x, from $69 million to $396 million:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority board on Friday took up the problem, hearing from its staff that the original estimate contained a number of miscalculations. The number of linear feet of utilities that have to be moved was underestimated, as was the cost per foot for the job, according to a staff memo. Then, there were utilities that nobody even knew were in the ground. The authority changed its mind about some of the work, as well, the report said.

….The history of the utility relocations suggests some turmoil in management decisions — which the rail authority staff said it would not repeat in the future….The staff said that “best management practices,” along with a new database, will enable it to better estimate costs in the future. “Additionally, the assumption that utilities will perform relocations will not be repeated,” the staff memo said.

No worries! This won’t be repeated in the future! I feel relieved.

The California bullet train is obviously one of my bugaboos, and I figure that all bloggers are entitled to one or two. But seriously, reading this stuff makes me wonder if anyone involved in this boondoggle has any experience whatsoever with large construction projects, let alone high-speed rail projects.

POSTSCRIPT: In fairness, I want to note that that this is not, strictly speaking, a new cost overrun. It’s all part of the “worst-case scenario” unveiled in January.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

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