AirTalk for December 16, 2011

Are we over high speed rail in California?

Mercer 11465

California High Speed Rail Authority

An artist's rendering of California's high speed rail.

Critics of California's bullet train both here and in Congress are vociferously challenging the decision to start the high speed rail system in the Central Valley, and claim the project is already over budget and rife with wasteful spending.

Despite these attacks, Joseph Szabo, the Federal Railroad Administration chief is pledging $3.3 billion to start construction of the state high speed rail system next year. In a congressional hearing yesterday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members repeatedly questioned Szabo about why the first leg of the statewide project was scheduled to begin in the state's least populated region.

Republican Congressman from Tulare, Devin Nunes whose district would actually be served buy the rail line, also questioned why the California High Speed Rail authority had spent $800 million over the last 15 years on political consultants and public relations, saying that if high speed rail were really supported in the state, a multi-million dollar PR campaign would not be necessary. Defenders of the decision to start the rail project in the Central Valley say projects like this are typically started in the center of their rail lines in order to test equipment.

The project's critics also raised questions yesterday in the hearing about whether federal funding will continue for the project if the state's own bond money doesn't materialize. Szabo steadfastly defended the project and the funding the federal government has committed to it. There is talk in California of a ballot measure to repeal the decision to build a high speed rail system in the state.

WEIGH IN:

Now that the project looks more costly and more complicated than it did when it was first proposed to voters, would you still support it?

Guests:

Kitty Felde, Washington Correspondent

Elizabeth Alexis, Co-Founder Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD); yesterday, Alexis testified at the House Committee on Transportation and Infratructure about High Speed Rail


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