Half-speed ahead for bullet train

first_imgSACRAMENTO – Travelers in Anaheim, Los Angeles and the Bay Area will be first to ride the state’s multibillion-dollar bullet train – if it ever gets built – the rail agency decided Wednesday. The California High-Speed Rail Authority board, which is pursuing the project in several segments, decided to build first in areas that are expected to have the highest ridership and generate the most revenue. That means that while the first segment could open by 2017, stops in San Diego, Irvine, the Inland Empire and Sacramento – which have been on earlier plans – will be postponed for years after that date. “If we wish to do something, we need to figure out how to start moving forward in bite-sized pieces – pieces that have true ends,” said board member Curt Pringle, the mayor of Anaheim. “I think this is an appropriate way to focus and move forward.” Under the plan approved Wednesday, the first segment would start in Anaheim, then stop in downtown Los Angeles, Burbank, Sylmar and Palmdale before heading up through the Central Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area. With bullet trains operating at speeds up to 220 mph, the express travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco is roughly 2 hours, according to the authority. The authority board has yet to chose between two potential routes through Northern California or name specific stops in the Bay Area. Decades struggle High-speed rail in California – now estimated to cost $40 billion – has struggled for decades to gain public support and funding, and once again is facing the threat of a setback. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to slash the authority’s operating budget and postpone a $10 billion bond measure that is tentatively slated for 2008. The bond measure had originally been scheduled for a vote in 2004, but the Legislature has already postponed it twice. Schwarzenegger has said he supports the concept of high-speed rail, but thinks the authority has to do more planning before it can receive major funding. In fact, authority members Wednesday discussed a financing plan that they acknowledged was very general and lacked commitments from the private sector or the federal government. “The authority needs to come up with a strong financing plan on where that additional revenue is going to come from, before we move forward with the bond,” said Adam Mendelsohn, spokesman for the governor. “He’s absolutely committed to high-speed rail, believes it’s critical for California’s infrastructure growth, but also believes it’s in the best interest of taxpayers that there be a strong financing plan developed before the additional revenue is put forward.” The Legislature is holding hearings to consider restoring at least some of the authority’s operating funding for next year. The authority was divided 5-2 in its decision Wednesday to pick an initial segment. San Diego left out Board member Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman from San Diego, objected to her city being left off the initial route. Member Jeff Crane, an adviser to the governor, opposed the plan because he felt the project should have a more specific financing plan first. Schenk, who has been involved in high-speed rail since the 1970s, said the San Diego-to-Los Angeles segment would be heavily traveled and should be part of the first stage. “I believe by adopting the entire corridor as the first phase, we can get there much more quickly,” Schenk said. “I can’t vote for any plan approval that will leave San Diego in the high-speed rail dustbin of history.” But the board’s executive director, Mehdi Moshed, said several areas along the Southern California route are difficult to plan right now. Regional governmental groups in San Diego and Los Angeles are studying privately funded proposals to build high-speed rail systems using magnetic levitation technology, which would be incompatible with the steel-wheel technique included in the authority’s plan. He also said that heavy development in those areas makes it more difficult to choose a route for the line. He argued that those questions should be resolved before moving forward with planning a segment in that region. harrison.sheppard @dailynews.com (916) 446-6723 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more