The start of construction on California's bullet train, a supposedly "shovel ready" public works project that drew federal stimulus money three years ago, could be delayed again until 2014.
Construction on the first 130 miles of rail bed was scheduled to begin in 2012, but was put off until this year, when officials first said groundbreaking on the massive network would take place in the spring and then changed that to July. Now, it may not start until 2014, reports The Los Angeles Times
Ron Tutor, chief executive of Tutor Perini, the firm chosen to build the first phase of the $68 billion project stretching north from Fresno, told the newspaper: "The way I see it, the earliest any real construction can start, other than demolition or clearing, is after the first of the year. We will have to complete design work and get permits."
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According to the Times
, as of last Friday, the firm, which is supposed to build the initial 29 miles of the system by 2017 for $985 million, is still waiting for a formal contract from the state.
Experts say the postponement indicates that state officials underestimated the challenges of building the high-speed rail, and increases the risk of future cost hikes.
"It is not as shovel-ready as they thought it was," Bill Ibbs, a civil engineering professor at University of California at Berkeley, told the Times. "The construction industry is starting to heat up, and, as it does, it is harder to get qualified people, and material costs increase."
Under federal agreements, the state has to spend all of the stimulus funding and matching amount of state funds by October 2017.
If construction starts Jan. 1, 2014, the federal deadline would require spending roughly $3.75 million a day, including weekends and holidays, reportedly one of the fastest rates of spending on a major construction project in U.S. history.
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