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Californians want benefits of high-speed rail, not the price tag

J. Stephen Conn via Flickr

A majority of Californians don’t want the state’s controversial high-speed rail line, says a recent poll forUSC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times. But at the same time, over two thirds of the voters surveyed said they think the project would create jobs and help the state’s economy. And 61% said a high-speed rail line would help reduce traffic at airports and on the highways. 

Back in 2008, California voters passed a $10 billion bond measure to fund a $45 billion high-speed rail line that would travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under two hours and 40 minutes. But then the estimated cost skyrocketed to $100 billion, and support for the rail system started to soften. While 53% of Californians voted for the measure in 2008, a recent poll showed 53% now oppose the project.

The estimated cost has since dipped to $68 billion, after the California High-Speed Rail  Authority adopted a “blended approach” in which the system would use existing rail lines at either end. That brought down the price, but some say that will make a San Francisco-Los Angeles trip closer to three hours.

The rail has been the subject of more than a few legal challenges, which have mostly been settled. But a pair of lawsuits has succeeded in delaying the construction on the massive project. The groundbreaking was supposed to happen this summer. It now won't happen until next year.

One of these lawsuits, brought by Central Valley farmer John Tos and homeowner Aaron Fukuda, seeks to invalidate the state bonds because the current plan differs too much from the original proposition passed by the voters.

That case just had its final hearing; a ruling is expected in the next few months.

Isabel Angell is KALW’s transportation reporter. You can find her work and more stories at transportationnation.org.