Saturday, March 22, 2008

High Speed Rail

A wonderful project that deserves funding to move it forward.

High-speed rail backers hope adding private investors to bond measure will avoid delays
By Judy Lin -
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, March 22, 2008

Democratic lawmakers have agreed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's request to include public-private partnerships for a high-speed train that could travel from either San Francisco or Sacramento to Los Angeles in 2 1/2 hours.

Supporters of the high-speed "bullet" train are hoping the changes will ensure that a $10 billion bond measure doesn't get delayed a third time – which some fear would jeopardize the entire project.

Under a compromise bill, Assembly Bill 3034 would modify a measure already on the November ballot to encourage private investment, whether through regional transportation authorities, Wall Street investment firms, or a combination of both.

"We're pleased the bill addresses previous concerns," Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman Rachel Cameron said Friday. "The governor is a big supporter of high-speed rail, and he believes strongly that Californians would benefit from a network that would connect communities throughout the state."

Although the governor has not taken a formal position on the bill, proponents say they are optimistic the ballot measure will now stay on the November ballot.

Twice already, in 2004 and 2006, the Legislature has postponed the bond measure that would allow voters to kick-start construction on high-speed rail. The original bond language was adopted in 2002.

The bill is expected to be heard first in the Assembly Transportation Committee next month, and its language may undergo changes. It requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

In keeping with the governor's green image, Schwarzenegger officials worked with the state's High-Speed Rail Authority to craft language that emphasizes the environmental value of the 700-mile system by reducing air and road congestion.