High-speed-rail vote delayed

Despite bipartisan legislative backing and polling evidence indicating
widespread voter support, a proposed bullet train connecting San Francisco,
Los Angeles and other metropolitan centers has been put on hold while the
state recovers from record budget deficits and borrows money for other
transportation priorities.

Even at 220 miles per hour, rail enthusiasts’ favorite pet project has not
been fast enough to escape the state’s lingering financial woes and a
November ballot that proponents feel already may be digging too deeply into
public pockets.

A $9.95 billion bond measure to finance a 700 mile high-speed rail line
originally was slated for voter approval in 2004.

Fearful that Californians would be averse to more borrowing as the state
sunk into its current $24 billion debt, state lawmakers booted the measure
to 2006. When Gov. Schwarzenegger called an unscheduled election for 2005,
the measure once again was moved off the ballot.

And last month, a bill from Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, delayed
the initiative once again until 2008.

“The [delay] has frustrated all of us that are supporters of high-speed
rail,” said Torrico, who sits on the Assembly Transportation Committee. “But
[the state is in] a financial mess and we’re starting to get it in order,
and this will have to wait.”

Torrico argues that the five bond initiatives up for approval this fall,
which include four infrastructure-improvement bonds worth over $37 billion,
would make voters uncomfortable with the idea of borrowing more money for
any reason, let alone a project whose initial phase will take at least eight
to 10 years to complete.

“I’m a big supporter of high-speed rail

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