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Proponents in Washington promote California’s bullet train

February 25, 2016

By Carolyn Lochhead : sfgate – excerpt

This story gets wonkier by the minute. Now the plan is to build the train from Bakersfield to San Francisco Bay and house people in the valley. So, why are we building dense housing and a huge transit system in San Francisco?

WASHINGTON — Ridiculed as a Train to Nowhere, California’s multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project is now a Train to Somewhere, rail officials said Wednesday, touting their decision last week to radically alter course by building the bullet train’s first leg to the Bay Area instead of the Los Angeles area.

In Washington to meet with federal agency partners, rail officials said that with construction under way near the town of Madera in the San Joaquin Valley, the $68 billion project will become a reality within a decade.

The idea is to speed workers to their jobs in unaffordable Silicon Valley and back again, to their homes in the more affordable towns of the San Joaquin Valley…

Private investors needed

By contrast, Richard said, “We know we can get a line up and running on the 250 miles between the Central Valley and Silicon Valley.”

Officials hope completing the line will get private investors to pony up $10 billion or so for the rights to operate the system, money the planners desperately need to complete the project.

Richard conceded that the line must extend all the way to San Francisco on the north from Bakersfield in the south to draw riders. For that, the authority will need an additional $2.9 billion from Congress, which Republicans refuse to spend. Richard said officials are laying the groundwork for the request to Congress but won’t ask for money for four to five years…(more)

RELATED:
California Voters Want More Water and Less Bullet Train
Posted by Leslie Eastman, Legal Insurrection

New drought plans needed after “Godzilla El Niño” turns out to be a dud.

…At this point, it looks as if California is going to have to continue implementing a wide array of water-saving measures, which include “cash-for-grass” and drought-shaming neighbors.

However, courtesy of our proposition system, Californians may get a chance to divert funds from a loser project into sensible infrastructure construction that may actually alleviate some our state’s water crisis.

The measure would redirect $8 billion in unsold high-speed rail bonds and $2.7 billion from the 2014 water bond to fund new water storage projects, while restructuring the oversight of those projects and prioritizing water usage in the state Constitution — a move critics say will be confusing and prone to legal challenges.

Proponents of the measure are trying to capitalize on the unpopularity of the high-speed rail project and the popularity of the water bond to substantially boost the funding for water storage projects, which they say weren’t adequately funded by the 2014 bond.

“What this initiative does is pick up where (the water bond) left off and fully funds the other necessary projects that are widely accepted as needing to be done,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, the executive director of the California Water Alliance. “There’s no new projects listed in our initiative.”…

A Stanford University Hoover Institution poll found that 53% of voters would approve of shifting the rail bonds to water projects.

I suspect that number will increase substantially, as the realities of the continuing water crisis impress people more than bureaucratic theory…(more)

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