Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bullet train to reach 220 MPH

SACRAMENTO -- For a quarter century it has been a California dream on one drafting board or another -- a bullet train system so novel, environmentally friendly and fleet that it could reshape transportation in the car-crazy Golden State.

Now, state voters will be asked Nov. 4 to provide some locomotion by approving nearly $10 billion as a down payment toward the ultimate vision of an 800-mile high-speed rail network.

Promoters of Proposition 1A boast that the $45-billion project, featuring sleek trains reaching 220 mph, would be the nation's most ambitious public works effort since completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869.

Foes say it would be a fiscal black hole that wouldn't deliver as promised.

With gas prices high, highways congested and airports jammed, it would seem the best of times for a bullet train.

But to some it seems the worst, with Wall Street in meltdown, California facing a perpetual budget deficit and the lurking specter of last month's horrific Metrolink commuter rail accident.

Past surveys have found that as many as two of three California residents support a bullet train. A poll in July found 56% support for financing the project this year.

But that was before the big problems hit.

"After all the crashes -- the train crash and the market crash -- supporters may have a lot more trouble than they anticipated," said Richard Tolmach, president of the nonprofit California Rail Foundation, a Proposition 1A foe.

No comments: