California’s governor wants to railroad legislators into funding trains

Gov. Jerry Brown will ask the legislature to approve billions to start construction on the high-speed rail next year

Transportation Management News Los Angeles Times November 16, 2011
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California’s Gov. Jerry Brown said last week that he plans to formally request that the legislature OK billions to start the construction of California’s bullet train next year, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Brown indicated that the train system would fill an important void for the state in addition to being significantly less expensive than additional highway and commercial aviation investments, despite the train’s $98.5-billion price tag.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority last week approved a new business plan that more than doubled the project's cost and a related financing plan that would ask for the first construction money, tapping $2.7 billion in state bonds and $3.3 billion in federal grants.

Rail officials hope the money can cover construction of a 140-mile segment from Chowchilla to Bakersfield, though it would not pay for electrification, trains or other necessary parts of an operating system. To actually transport passengers will require more than $20 billion of additional investment in track and equipment, money that the state now does not have.

Still, the start of construction with the money in hand represents "a prudent next step," and the state could find future sources of funding in new types of federal bonds, in state taxes or even by securing more federal funding, Brown said.


Under the current plan, the system would not be finished in its entirety until Brown is 95 years old, he said.

State Controller John Chiang’s office reported Thursday that tax receipts are about $1.5 billion lower than state budget architects anticipated through the first four months of the fiscal year. Brown said that the budget would be touch-and-go for the next few years, but said he wanted to “promote investments in the state.”

Even though the cost of the project has doubled, Brown said it is manageable over the 23-year construction period.

"Lincoln built the transcontinental railroad during the Civil War, and we built the Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression," Brown said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The governor downplayed widespread criticism that the rail construction would destroy businesses, damage farms and displace homes along the route. He recalled that during his time as Oakland mayor, opposition surfaced against every building project from people concerned about traffic and those complaining about structures that would block sunlight.


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