Accusations heat up over Calif. high-speed rail

August 5, 2010 1:12:21 PM PDT
A heated debate is getting hotter by the minute at a meeting on the plan to build the California high-speed rail. Not everyone is onboard. In fact, some want to put on the brakes and the accusations are getting sharper.

"I ask all the interested stake holders to dial down the rhetoric. It's really time that we come together to figure this out," Roseanne Faust from the San Mateo Economic Development Council said.

She is referring to the verbal bombs exchanged recently between Jim Wunderman, the CEO of the Bay Area Council and Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who represents residents of seven communities in San Mateo County which are located along the high speed rail right of way.

"Some supporters of the project have unfairly criticized and characterized such efforts as obstructionists," Hill said. "That is not so. Elected officials in these cities are simply exercising their responsibility to be active participants in the planning process."

As CEO of the Bay Area Council, Wunderman represents 275 corporate members. He sees the call to slow down on the planning process as a death knell for the $43 billion high speed connection between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the tens of thousands of jobs it would create.

He says some city officials are paying too much attention to the minority of naysayers.

"We have heard from some very loud, vocal individuals who don't benefit from this project, who don't want to have a train coming through the Peninsula even though their train comes through the Peninsula, and that's the way things were when they bought the house, and they rather see it stop," Wunderman said.

A vast majority of voters in San Mateo County approved the bond measure to build polls show they still do. Hill said he wants to build it, but build it right

Wunderman says any deal could take the billions in state and federal funding elsewhere and it's not a vision. He's already seen what high speed rail can do in China, shortening two and three hour drives to 30 minutes.

"What it does is it brings labor markets together, it makes economic activity possible in other ways that may seem impossible. The Chinese have looked at this very carefully, and they have been able to see what they did in Japan very closely," he said.

Another disagreement surfaced over San Jose and San Francisco. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chu looked that the San Jose Board city officials and said, 'If you have any thought about having the high speed-rail in San Jose, not San Francisco, forget about it.


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