Addressing High Capital Costs and Delays for California’s Major Transportation Projects

Research Team: Ethan Elkind (lead), J. Jordan Diamond, Ted Lamm, and Arianna Wolff

University: UC Berkeley

Problem Statement: California transit agencies are investing billions of dollars in major transportation projects to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Yet these projects are often hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule, compared to similar projects in other advanced economies.

Project Description: This research project addresses why California agencies are often unable to control costs and build these projects on schedule and why some projects are more successful. It will draw on existing research as to why some countries have better track records than California and the United States in delivering major projects on-budget and on-time. UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) will conduct five detailed, comprehensive case studies of representative and recent (past 5-10 years) VMT-reducing transportation projects throughout California to glean lessons learned. The studies will include heavy rail, light rail, and bus-rapid transit projects, with diverse costs and timelines, and from different parts of the state. Each will provide a detailed narrative history for the project to identify the key decisions, regulatory and planning processes, and other law and policy factors that affected the projects’ costs and completion time. Based on this analysis, CLEE will offer recommendations on how California transportation agencies can more reliably deliver major transportation capital projects.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $44,455

Project Partner(s): San Francisco County Transportation Authority