Wednesday, July 08, 2009

California budget wording could threaten HSR plan

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California high speed rail proponents are concerned that language in the  current budget could cost the Golden State $1.3 billion in federal stimulus package money, which could bog down the proposed $45 billion, 700-mile project.

Current language in the bill, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he will veto, reportedly contains a line that requires more study of the part of high speed rail route that runs between San Francisco and San Jose. The language was attached as a condition of the state spending $139 million to hire staff and engineering firms. But HSR proponents say such a study could delay the project beyond when it would be eligible for $1.3 billion in federal stimulus money.

One source says the language threat could be accidental or inadvertent, but notes some political “pushback” is occurring from several groups not sold on HSR, ranging from Not-In-My-Back-Yard forces to pro-rail factions still seeking more conventional, incremental upgrades to passenger rail. Those factions, singly and together, “have legislative allies,” the source says.