Bullet Train Derailed by Budget Mess

High-speed rail project stalled, needs $29 million to get through June

By Jackson West
|  Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009  |  Updated 12:23 PM PDT
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Learn the Basics of High-Speed Rail

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The economy makes it tough to know if the Bay Area will see this kind of bullet train any time soon.

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Learn the Basics of High-Speed Rail

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Voters passed a $10 billion bond measure to fund a high-speed rail line stretching from Sacramento to San Diego, but unless the project can get an immediate loan of $29.1 million, work could grind to a halt before it is begun.

The state's budget mess has indefinitely frozen funding for infrastructure projects, and even though a two-year budget plan was recently passed by the legislature, cash-flow problems persist. However, $10 billion has already been approved by the voters, and possibly up to $8 billion could be coming to the massive project from President Obama's stimulus package.

The $29 billion loan, requested from the state's Pooled Money Investment Board, could give contractors work through June. It would be repaid once the state can begin issuing bonds again. No contractors have started working yet as it is.

The project is facing many other hurdles as well.

Residents of wealthy Peninsula enclaves Menlo Park and Atherton have sued to keep the route from running through their manicured back yards, and some Palo Alto residents have begun protesting the project.

A meeting this week of Palo Alto's city council drew vocal detractors carrying signs and chanting "High-speed rail underground, we don't want to hear a sound."

The other contender for a mid-peninsula station, Redwood City, held a community meeting Wednesday. While residents there also expressed concerns, others suggested that it was a good candidate thanks to ease of freeway access and a possible future ferry terminal connection.

The first leg of the project might connect Bakersfield and Merced and would cover approximately 180 miles in only 45 minutes. The California High Speed Rail Authority the next day issued a statement saying that they had not made definite plans yet as to which leg would be the first to break ground.

Jackson West voted yea on Proposition 1A.

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