Suspecting that the California High-Speed Rail Authority intentionally misled the state Legislature on costs, state Assembly Republicans are seeking to subpoena state documents on the estimated $68-billion high-speed-rail (HSR) project and set up a special committee to receive sworn testimony from CHSRA officials.

“They have failed to disclose huge cost overruns, and after they boasted private firms were interested in funding this project, we now know these firms are unwilling to put up any private money. … We have learned that the HSRA ordered its own experts to keep their findings secret from the public,” Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-District 23, Fresno) said in an Oct. 30 statement. 

The high-speed-rail service, already under construction, requires tunneling 36 miles through the San Gabriel and Tehachapi mountain ranges to complete phase one, from Merced to Burbank. A construction team of Tutor Perini, Zachry and Parsons Brinckerhoff completed the first concrete pour for the Fresno River Viaduct, HSR’s first aerial structure, in June. A 2013 Parsons Brinckerhoff presentation obtained by the Los Angeles Times showed that phase-one costs already had ballooned to $40 billion from an original estimate of $31 billion.

While Patterson said construction firms were resistant to kick in their own financing for the project, Stephen Polechronis, AECOM senior vice president, said AECOM remained very interested in pursuing future bids. Asked if the firm, which has been involved with the HSR project from its earliest planning stages, would put up some of its own money, Polechronis said, “It is being evaluated, and our CEO Mike Burke has made it clear that part of AECOM’s strategy is to offer completely integrated construction packages.”

Despite cost estimates given to lawmakers, “it is impossible to establish firm prices on a project of this size and scale,” Polechronis said.