Lawmakers scrutinize high-speed rail plan

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webmaster | 04/19/12
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SACRAMENTO (AP) — A day after a highly critical report on a $68.4 billion high-speed rail proposal, Democrats who control the California Legislature said they remained committed to the project and the chairman of the authority that would oversee construction said it’s still a risk worth taking.

On Wednesday, lawmakers began evaluating the latest proposal from the California High-Speed Rail Authority in Senate and Assembly hearings. They are considering Gov. Jerry Brown’s request to sell about $2.6 billion in voter-approved bonds to begin construction.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office on Tuesday urged lawmakers to reject the plan because it relies on highly speculative financing.

Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority board, urged lawmakers Wednesday not to forego $3.3 billion in federal matching money available for the project. President Barack Obama’s administration has offered the money for construction of the first segment in the Central Valley.

The latest business plan trimmed last year’s cost estimate of $98 billion but leaves it well above the $45 billion figure given to voters in 2008 when they approved selling nearly $10 billion in bonds.

Brian Weatherford, an analyst who wrote the report criticizing the latest funding proposal, said lawmakers are being asked to approve funding “while some of the details still aren’t worked out, which increases the risk.”

 

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