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Cali Voters Would Reject High Speed Rail

California High Speed TrainsAccording to a new Field Poll, two-thirds of resident voters in California who approved of the state’s high speed rail project three years ago would now vote ‘no’ if they were give the chance again. This comes after the California High Speed Rail Authority revised the estimated cost of the development last month to nearly $100 billion over two decades. This is over double the previous estimate.

Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo says that these were supporters of the rail project in the beginning. However, now more than one-third of voters have switched their opinion to ‘no’, he noted. This comes at a difficult time for the rail authority, as it’s seeking approval from the legislature to begin work in the Central Valley next year.

According to the poll, 64% want the legislature to call for the issue to be voted on again. If this was done, the poll found that 59% say they will reject the $9.9 billion bond package that was previously approved. Meanwhile, the poll also notes that the project is opposed by a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents.

The change in view is at least partially due the rising cost estimates and the time line of the project being extended to 2033. However, it probably also reflects a more general resistance to spending while the economy is still so weak. DiCamillo says that the entire economic climate has changed, along with the state budget situation. He thinks they are in a completely different environment, and he thinks a project that costs $9 billion will have less of a chance at passing now than three years ago.

This is the first Field Poll measurement of public opinion relating to the project since 2008. During the last poll, 52.7% of voters approved Proposition 1A, seriously considering a network of high speed trains to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco by the end of this decade. After not getting far in a year under increasing political opposition, it appeared that the project had been kept afloat with the support of Governor Jerry Brown, as well as with the release of a new business plan.

Prior to the public release of the recent poll numbers, California High Speed Rail Authority board chairman Tom Umberg told lawmakers that the bond measure gives them the direction to build a system that will connect northern and southern California. However, Senator Doug LaMalfa said the estimated cost had jumped so much since 2008 that many voters feel they have been tricked, and he thinks Californians are finding out that they want a re-vote.

The poll has found that, out of the voters who supported the bond measure three years ago, 37% would now vote against it. Those who originally voted against it will remain nearly unanimous at 96%. Those who didn’t vote in the original ballot or can’t remember how they voted now oppose the measure at 57% and 28% respectively.

 

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