Californians would reject bullet train in revote, polls finds

December 7, 2011
By Dan Weikel and Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times
With the cost of the state’s high-speed rail project rising dramatically, a new public opinion poll shows that a clear majority of California’s registered voters would reject the proposal if given a second chance to vote on it today.

Released Tuesday, the poll by Field Research Corp. in San Francisco found that 64% of those surveyed want another public vote on the $98-billion project and that 59% of respondents would oppose it because of changes in its cost and completion date.

The estimated price tag for the 520-mile system between San Francisco and Los Angeles is now $98 billion to $117 billion — at least triple the initial projection of $33 billion and over double a more recent estimate of $43 billion. Planners have extended the construction deadline from 2020 to 2033.

“If there were a revote, its chances of passage given this poll are not very good,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.

Meanwhile in Washington, a barrage of sharp criticism was leveled at Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who appeared Tuesday at a hearing by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the Obama administration’s high-speed rail program.

Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who has long asserted that he supports the concept of high-speed rail, said the California project was the one hope for a true bullet train but now appears to be in “disarray.”

Voters approved the project when they passed Proposition 1A by almost 53% in November 2008. The ballot measure authorized $9 billion in state bonds to help pay for construction.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority wants to begin work next year on a length of track between Merced and Bakersfield in the Central Valley.

Project supporters and rail officials said voters should not give up on the project because it has attracted $3 billion in federal aid, will create 100,000 jobs and will modernize California’s increasingly congested transportation networks.

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