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Is California’s proposed bullet train a potential misfire?

A picture taken on August 11, 2011 show a CRH380BL bullet train sitting at Beijing south railway station.  State-owned Chinese train manufacturer China CNR Corp said it is recalling 54 of its CRH380BL bullet trains being used on a new high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai because of "flaws". AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
The public's opinion concerning a high-speed rail project between Los Angeles and San Francisco has soured.

Californians have already seen the proposed $68-billion high-speed rail project’s deadline pushed back, as well as its price tag go up.

Californians have already seen the proposed $68-billion high-speed rail project’s deadline pushed back, as well as its price tag go up. Now, in light of these setbacks, tough economic times and Gov. Jerry Brown’s pressuring of Sacramento to green-light rail construction in the Central valley, it appears as if the public has soured on the mega-infrastructure plan.

In 2008, voters approved the project by 52.7 percent. Now, 55 percent are calling for the issue to be placed back on a ballot for a vote, and 59 percent say they would vote it down. 67 percent of Southern California voters would oppose it if it was on the ballot again, and even expected stalwarts such as union members and Democrats are by no means making up the difference. 56 percent of union households are now against the plan, and only 43 percent of Democrats say they’d vote for it. 76 percent of Republicans, unsurprisingly, would reject it.

This is troublesome for the California High-Sped Rail Authority, which has already had to fight public opinion on this project. Also, voters may see a direct connection between this project and Gov. Brown’s proposed tax increase on the November ballot, which could end up being voted down. That would place the state in even more dire economic straits.

Proponents of the plan are taking the long view, saying that airports are soon going to be too crowded, the rail will open up economic opportunities for work and tourism in the state and decrease the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Which side will win out in the end? Is the plan likely to make its way back to the ballot? How can Gov. Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority assuage voters’ reservations about the project? Is it just too expensive? Do you think the bullet train is worth it and, more importantly at this point, realistic?


Ralph Vartabedian, National Correspondent for the Los Angeles Times

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