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Can California's high-speed rail system sustain itself?

The California state Legislature's non-partisan budget analyst released a report Thursday outlining the business plan for the state's proposed high-speed rail system.

The review cites two potential problems with the project's funding now that the plan has shifted to begin construction in Northern California rather than in the south.

A map showing the proposed high-speed rail system's path.
California Legislative Analyst's Office
A map showing the proposed high-speed rail system's path.

The new business plan assumes the rail line's first part would largely be funded by the cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions, but that program has yet to be extended beyond 2020.

"While the administration indicates it plans to continue the cap-and-trade program beyond 2020, current law does not appear to authorize the program’s continuation," the report states.

Given that, the Legislature will have to decide whether the likely ridership for this part of the system alone — running between San Jose and Bakersfield — would be enough to sustain itself, even if the other sections of the system never get built. 

The High Speed Rail Authority's plan changed course in February, in part because officials encountered resistance from some communities along the planned route between Burbank and Palmdale.

Read the full report below:

High-speed rail LAO report