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$68.4B high-speed rail plan unveiled

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webmaster | 04/03/12

New proposal scales back design, speeds construction

FRESNO (AP) — California’s high-speed rail authority released a fresh proposal Monday for a bullet train linking Northern and Southern California, with a price tag of $68.4 billion and a scaledback design to address sustained criticism of a project that has been called a boondoggle and a train to nowhere.

The revised proposal speeds completion to 2028, about five years earlier, and puts the cost at $30 billion less than a draft plan released last fall.

However, the cost is still $25 billion more than the plan voters approved four years ago.

The revised plan merges the bullet train with existing commuter rail lines in the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles basin, providing nearly $1 billion to electrify existing rail tracks in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, which officials say would speed up rail service and possibly generate more riders.

Michael Rossi, a member of the rail authority’s board and a senior adviser on jobs and business for California Gov. Jerry Brown, called the new plan credible and reasonable.

“This project, like the state highway system or the water project, will transform the California economy and help it remain one of the most innovative in the world,” he said at a Fresno news conference to release the plan.

Brown, a Democrat, has asked the California High-Speed Rail Authority to revamp its earlier proposal and make construction quicker and cheaper after a draft plan said the project’s cost had more than doubled to $98 billion.

Under the updated plan, the Central Valley and the San Fernando Valley would be linked by trains moving at speeds up to 220 mph and would link by 2023, expanding on what originally had been proposed as a 130-mile Madera-to-Bakersfield section that critics had lampooned as a “train to nowhere.”

Yet the plan still appears to rely heavily upon highly questionable federal financing and private sector investment, noted Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.


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