Lawmaker calls high-speed rail project a lemon

One lawmaker calls the high-speed rail project a lemon and voters may get the chance to take away the bond money.
January 10, 2012 7:04:12 PM PST
The latest controversy over high-speed rail could put the issue before voters for a second time. This vote would take away the bond money Californians approved for the project four years ago.

"Voters believe they bought a lemon," said Assm. Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point.

State Republicans say there's a new Lemon Law and the new transportation dud is California's High-Speed Rail project.

Harkey 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, operating costs are being ignored, and we're relying on a problematic ridership study," said Harkey.

The new proposal to defund 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.

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

Assm. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, is one of the authors of high-speed rail. She says 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," said Galgiani.

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

"The cuts to the disabled and the schools," said Mary Johnson, a disabled Medi-Cal recipient. "What is the governor thinking? What about this high-speed rail? Can we cut the high speed rail out?"

Gov. Jerry Brown said he's forging ahead with high-speed rail and accuses Republicans of playing politics.


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