Residents sound off on high speed rail plan

November 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
It's either the path to hundreds of thousands of new jobs and a greener future, or it's the biggest white elephant boondoggle the state has ever seen. Such were the divergent views expressed Tuesday at a hearing for the state's proposed high speed rail system.

"The debt begins to spiral up and up and up,"

Opponents of the state's proposed high speed rail system point to the cost projections which have spiraled up and up. In 2008, the cost was projected at a little over $33.5 billion. In 2009, that number was revised to $42.6 billion, and the business plan presented Tuesday had it at $98 billion -- nearly triple the original estimate.

"Thirty-three billion dollars is now up to $98.5 [billion], to upwards of $117 billion," said Jerry Fagundes of Hanford, California. "How can we believe that this is to be an honest cost."

Opponents say this is not the system Californians voters approved. Tuesday, Kings County supervisors filed a lawsuit alleging that same argument. Costs have soared, federal help is drying up and the projected private investment hasn't yet materialized.

"And that's the real problem and the challenge we're faced with today is who's going to make up the difference? Who's going to pay the cost of the system," said Assm. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.

Hill says he still supports high speed rail.

Outside the hearing, construction workers and labor unions met to rally for the projected 600,000 jobs the project would create.

Rafael Zamora got up and told the crowd he's out of work and lost his home to foreclosure, but what he didn't tell them was that he had to send his two sons and his wife to live in Mexico.

"My house, my family, my job, my food, I lose everything," said Zamora. "I live in my truck right now."

A lot on the line over this high speed rail proposal, and not very much time. California legislators have just 60 days to study the new business plan and then vote, or they risk losing $2.3 billion in federal funds that are due to expire.


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