Public Sours on California Bullet Train

With Governor Brown and federal leaders pressuring state legislators to approve construction of the key first step in the $68-billion bullet train plan, a new survey from USC and the L.A. Times shows that California voters are backing away.
June 5, 2012, 1pm PDT | Akemi Leung
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Based on the findings of a new survey conducted by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times, the plan to build a high-speed rail network connecting Northern and Southern California is losing support amongst the state's voters, reports Ralph Vartabedian. A majority of voters now say they would vote against the original 2008 bond measure that provides a portion of the funding for the project.

The bullet train, which is expected to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco by 2028, is a source of conflict between government officials and an increasingly skeptical public. "You have a situation where general financial pressure and cynicism toward the government has narrowed the support," said Drew Lieberman of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic polling firm that conducted the survey jointly with American Viewpoint, a Republican-affiliated firm.

Vartabedian reports that Governor Jerry Brown and other supporters of the train believe that, "the project requires a long-term optimistic view of California's future."

"Some lawmakers agree on the need for the rail service but are concerned that the existing plan is flawed and could set the state up for a big disappointment, if not financial disaster. The decline in public enthusiasm for the proposal appears to reflect more than a short-term fluctuation in sentiment, which might be expected and even discounted by officials trying to execute a decades-long project deemed crucial to the state's economic future."

In addition, California's increasing deficit is making some voters think more carefully about where taxpayer dollars should best be spent. "It costs too much and we need the money in other places," said poll respondent Robert Coplin,"We should fix the roads, fix the levees and reduce the deficit. The rail makes no sense at all."

Thanks to Akemi Leung

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Published on Saturday, June 2, 2012 in Los Angeles Times
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