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California Voters (Still) Want their Bullet Train

High-speed rail train rendering – via CAHSRA

Fifty six percent of voters support continuing to build the state's high-speed rail system, with only 35 percent opposed, according to a new study from Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies.

"By a margin of 73 percent to 18 percent, Democrats support the project, with 54 percent of independent voters in support and 37 percent opposed. Registered Republicans oppose the project—66 percent to 25 percent," wrote the U.S. High Speed Rail Coalition in a statement about the poll.

"This poll confirms what we've believed for a long-time – that the great majority of Californians want electrified high-speed rail to help them alleviate congestion, avoid high gas prices, and address the climate crisis," said Ray LaHood, former U.S. Transportation Secretary and co-chair of the U.S. High-Speed Rail Coalition.

A breakdown of opinions on HSR from the poll
A breakdown of opinions on HSR from the poll

"The following very objective survey confirms what the US High Speed Rail Coalition has been sharing...our high-speed rail project is supported by a strong majority of the state's voters," reiterated Rod Diridon, Sr., Co-Chair of the US High Speed Rail Coalition and the namesake of San Jose's railway station.

Diridon added that state legislators need to "release the $4.2 billion to finish the Bakersfield to Merced section." Key lawmakers, including Los Angeles-area Democrats Laura Friedman, Anthony Rendon, and Luz Rivas have worked to stop that allocation.

As previously reported, Governor Newsom submitted a $4.2 billion budget request last year to complete construction underway in the Central Valley. This funding represents the remainder of the original Proposition 1A bond approved by voters in 2008 to fund the California High-Speed Rail project. That money would allow tracks and overhead wire to be installed on the over 100 miles of bridges, viaducts and right of way nearing completion, in addition to ordering California's first high-speed train sets. The L.A. politicians, at least partially funded by petroleum lobbyists, have focused specifically on blocking funds for electrification, a key component of high-speed rail and the only thing that permits 200+ mph operations--all without burning fossil fuels. By jamming up these funds, the L.A. politicians have also blocked money for bicycle, commuter rail, and pedestrian projects that are part of the transportation budget.

Newsom has submitted a similar budget proposal this year. The federal funding picture is now a great deal brighter, but continued state-level obstructionism could cause further delays and cost overruns for the project.

"With the passage of the $1.4 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the climate change element of the Build Back Better Bill being developed, and the fine work of CEO Brian Kelley and his team at the California High Speed Rail Authority... we are on the verge of breaking through," continued Diridon. "Those new funds must go to a 'shovel-ready' project and ours is the only one in the nation that meets that criteria."

"As a resident of Los Angeles, I understand not only the imperative of building California's transformative high-speed rail project, but also that the vast majority of my fellow California Democrats believe it will address our state's growing climate, affordable housing, and mobility challenges," said Alan Minsky, Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America, as quoted in the US High Speed Rail Coalition release. "I urge the Legislature to approve Governor Newsom's $4.2 billion budget request to continue progress on the project."

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