Monday, March 31, 2008
It's been an on-again, off-again measure on the state ballot – but backers of a high-speed rail project in California say this November voters will decide once and for all whether to approve billions in bond funds for the train that will run up and down the state. Jenny O'Mara reports.
College students involved with the group CALPIRG or the California Public Interest Research Group spent their spring break on bikes – to show their support for high-speed rail in California. Their trip was to stops along the train's proposed route and included their own version of the train. It was actually people wearing silver-painted boxes.
Students: Are you ready? Start chug-ah-chug-ah choo-chooing, go, go go! Here comes the train! (cheers)
The high-speed train proposed for California could run at speeds of over 200 miles per hour and would eventually go from San Diego to San Francisco.
The bond to help fund it had been scheduled to appear on two previous ballots – in 2004, and 2006. It was delayed in part over concerns about the state's fiscal condition. But members of the
California High-Speed Rail Authority
, that's been planning the route and project, say this is the year.
David Crane is a special advisor to the governor and serves as an Authority board member. He says if approved by voters, one-third of the funding for the largest part of the project – almost ten billion dollars – will come from the state bond.
David Crane, California High Speed Rail Authority: The balance will come from the federal government and the private sector and the local sector – in many segments there's a lot of local activity.
But there is some tinkering going on: legislation introduced in the State Assembly addresses some concerns raised by Governor Schwarzenegger. It would require that areas whose rail segments need the smallest amount of bond funds be given priority. The bond also has its critics. Richard Tolmach questions how the stops have been chosen along the route
Richard Tolmach: They've decided to avoid places with millions of people in favor of places that don't have 50,000, and that says to me the whole thing is speculator-driven.
Others question whether the train will really attract enough riders to sustain it.
Over the next several months, supporters will form a committee to run the campaign. They say if approved, the project would be on-line by the year 2020.
In Sacramento, I'm Jenny O'Mara.