April 26, 2019

WHO COULD HAVE FORESEEN THIS? How California’s troubled high-speed rail project was ‘captured’ by costly consultants.

But significant portions of this work have been flawed or mismanaged, according to records reviewed by The Times and interviews with dozens of people involved in the project. Despite repeated warnings since 2010 about weaknesses in its staffing, the rail authority believed it could reduce overall costs by relying on consultants and avoiding a large permanent workforce. But that strategy has failed to keep project costs from soaring. Ten years after voters approved it, the project is $44 billion over budget and 13 years behind schedule.

A reckoning may be coming very soon, however.

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently told The Times that he would be taking aim at the consultants when the rail authority sends a major project update to the Legislature on May 1, including a detailed plan on building a partial operating system from Bakersfield to Merced for $16 billion to $18 billion.

“I’m getting rid of a lot of consultants,” Newsom said. “How did we get away with this?”

But actually reducing the role of consultants will be problematic because they have become cemented into place.

When state rail authority employees go to their Sacramento headquarters, they work in offices rented by a consultant. When they turn on their computers, much of their data is stored on servers owned by consultants. The software they use to help manage the project is the property of a consultant.

It’s inherent graft built into every left-controlled city’s “desire named streetcar” on a massive, statewide scale.

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