Some state lawmakers push to de-fund high speed rail

9:05 PM, Jan 10, 2012   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - State Republicans said there's a new "Lemon Law", the new transportation dud California's High Speed Rail project.

Orange County Assem. Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, proposes to halt the sale of nearly $10 billion in voter-approved bonds to help finance the now $100 billion system.

"The original price tag has tripled," Harkley said. "Operating costs are being ignored, and we're relying on a problematic ridership study."

Just last week, a peer review group recommended killing the bond sale, and State Sen. Doug LaMalfa introduced legislation that would ask voters again whether they still want High Speed Rail.

The new proposal to de-fund the 520-mile bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles is the latest headache that threatens the project's future, which promises the economy-battered Central Valley lots of jobs this year when the first segment is expected to break ground.

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"I think this is a shameful bill," State Building and Construction Trades Council member Cesar Diaz said. "This proposal will essentially take away hundreds to thousands of jobs that are coming to California."

Sensing the project is in trouble, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein urged Gov. Jerry Brown to fold the High Speed Rail Authority into CalTrans to ensure success.

Assem. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, one of the authors of high speed rail, said the project should move forward because experts from other countries that have high speed rail are willing to lend their expertise and help California connect high speed rail to existing rail to bring the price tag down.

"That means we don't need to spend as much money with grade separations, bridges, viaducts and the like that end up driving the costs up," Galgiani said.

However, a few Democratic lawmakers, who were originally big supporters of high speed rail, are starting to have second thoughts.

Brown is dedicated to forging ahead with the high speed rail and accuses Republicans of playing politics.

Yet, with $2.7 billion slated for high speed rail in next year's state budget at a time when Brown proposes deeper cuts to programs, California's needy don't understand why they aren't a higher priority.

"The cuts to the disabled, the schools," Disabled Medi-Cal Recipient Mary Johnson said. "What is the Governor thinking? What about this high speed rail, can we cut the high speed rail out?"

By Nannette Miranda


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