Cali Bullet Train Breaking the Rules, Losing Big Supporters
By Eve Bachrach, March 27, 3013
All is not well in California high-speed rail land--some of the project's earliest backers have turned against the project, saying that concessions that have been made not only violate voter-imposed requirements on the project's funding, but have meanwhile taken the "high speed" out of high-speed rail. For instance, Quentin Kopp--who cowrote the legislation that launched HSR in California--says that the law requires that the project be built in "usable segments," and that each segment be fully funded before work begins, but "he says the current plan to build 130 miles of rail in the Central Valley for $6 billion, starting this summer, will not produce a usable segment,"reports the LA Times. According to Kopp, the first feasible usable segment would connect the San Fernando Valley to Merced, at a cost of $31 billion--way more money than the state has on hand. He also says that agreements that would allow slower trains to share the new track violate the requirement that at least some LA-San Francisco trips take no longer than two hours and 40 minutes. Kopp is apparently so disillusioned with the project that he's supporting a civil suit by Central Valley agricultural interests that's trying to bring it to a halt.Lynn Schenk, another longtime supporter and current member of California's rail authority, voted against a track-sharing agreement with Bay Area transit agencies that she said came "at the expense of the ultimate goal of high-speed rail." But Dan Richard, chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority, says that "tremendous progress" has been made, and the critics are wrong, noting that it's common for HSR to share tracks with slower trains and run at slower speeds in urban areas.
But despite the opposition, HSR is unlikely to be stopped by the Central Valley law suit. Much of the state's political establishment is still behind the project, and "legal observers doubt a trial judge would block a voter-approved project supported by the political establishment."
· High-speed rail's strongest backers now express reservations [LAT]