The cost of California’s high-speed rail project is not increasing. That was the message from rail officials during an Assembly oversight hearing today.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority spent much of the hearing pushing back on a recent L.A. Times article reporting cost estimates for the first phase of the $68 billion project had increased 31 percent.

Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales said that’s not accurate.

“There was no 31 percent increase in the cost of the program,” he said. “We did not withhold information about a cost increase in the program because there was no increase in the program.”

Rail officials will soon release an updated business plan. They insist it will show project costs are actually dropping.

Still, political skepticism persists. Democrat Richard Gordon of Los Altos says he hopes the business plan will address the true cost of constructing tunnels for the project.

“There is no more challenging effort than a tunneling project and the cost related to that and potential cost overruns,” he said.

Fresno Republican Jim Patterson pressed for definite cost and timeline projections.

“You are representing to the people of the state of California that you have high levels of confidence both in the $68 billion ultimate price tag and in getting this project in on time?” he asked.

Rail Authority Board Chair Dan Richard said that, based on what he knows today, he believes the project will come in under budget. But he says it may take longer than anticipated.

Author

Katie Orr

Katie Orr is a Sacramento-based reporter for KQED's Politics and Government  Desk, covering the state Capitol and a variety of issues including women in politics, voting and elections and legislation. Prior to joining KQED in 2016, Katie was state government reporter for Capital Public Radio in Sacramento. She's also worked for KPBS in San Diego, where she covered City Hall.

Katie received her masters degree in political science from San Diego State University and holds a Bachelors degree in broadcast journalism from Arizona State University.

In 2015 Katie won a national Clarion Award for a series of stories she did on women in California politics. She's been honored by the Society for Professional Journalists and, in 2013, was named by The Washington Post as one of the country's top state Capitol reporters.   She's also reported for the award-winning documentary series The View from Here and was part of the team that won  national PRNDI and  Gabriel Awards in 2015. She lives in Sacramento with her husband. Twitter: @1KatieOrr

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