Fact Check: California's Fresno River Viaduct Did NOT Cost $11 Billion, Did NOT Take 9 Years

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: California's Fresno River Viaduct Did NOT Cost $11 Billion, Did NOT Take 9 Years Not So Pricey

Did the Fresno River Viaduct in California cost $11 billion over nine years of construction? No, that's not true: A claim on social media misleads about the cost and duration of the project. The viaduct was completed in roughly three years, and the figure of $11 billion includes multiple structures that have been built for California's high-speed rail system.

The claim reappeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook on May 5, 2024. It began:

This stretch of bridge right here in California was just completed and cost get this 11 billion dollars! Also took just 9 years.
(will be used for high-speed rail)

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-05-08 at 1.15.01 PM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed May 8 17:15:01 2024 UTC)

The claim originated from a post (archived here) on X, formerly known as Twitter, on May 3, 2024. The platform's owner, Elon Musk (archived here), elevated the thread by participating in the discussion -- and the images of the Fresno River Viaduct were then shared under captions describing it as a "bridge to nowhere."

The photos reused in the posts were originally published by the account of the California High-Speed Rail Authority (archived here) on Facebook on May 1, 2024. That entry identified the structure as the Fresno River Viaduct, which matched the appearance of the spot on Google Maps (archived here).

"Fresno River Viaduct is part of Construction Package 1. Approved invoices to date for CP 1 is just over $2B dollars. It is inaccurate to say that one structure like the Fresno River Viaduct would cost $11B," a spokesperson at the California High-Speed Rail Authority wrote Lead Stories in an email received May 10, 2024.

Contrary to speculations on social media, the viaduct is not a stand-alone structure -- it is part of California's high-speed rail system that is being built to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles (archived here).

The bridge's construction took roughly three years, not nine: The beginning of construction was first reported by ABC30 (archived here) in June 2015, and in December 2018, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSR) said (archived here) that the work was completed.

"The figure of $11 billion is not representative of the viaduct's cost -- it falls in the range of what California has already spent on multiple construction sites during the first stages of the project (between $9.8 billion and $11 billion). As of December 2023, California has built 119 miles of track (archived here).

In 2024, the overall cost of the project was estimated at over $100 billion (archived here).

Other Lead Stories fact checks mentioning California can be found here.


  • 2024-05-13T22:32:35Z 2024-05-13T22:32:35Z
    Adds quote from spokesperson at California High-Speed Rail Authority.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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