Approval of a revised California High-Speed Rail proposal was put on hold Thursday, as board officials wanted more time for state officials to calm the lawmakers and citizens that are upset about the decision to send the trains to the San Jose area instead of Los Angeles. The rail authority now intends to link Merced to the initial operating segments, which could add more than $1 billion to that phase of the cash-strapped project.
The revisions attempt to address a host of concerns, including the ultimate plan to connect San Diego and Sacramento, the $43.5 billion gap needed to fund the $64 billion project, and the worry that the train will never reach Los Angeles. Rail Authority CEO, Jeff Morales, told the board that the state intends to spend $4 billion in preparing Southern California for the High-Speed Rail, but the source of funding is uncertain.
The business plan lays out a strategy for building an initial operating segment for $20.5 billion that will be funded through greenhouse gas programs, federal grants and state bonds that were approved by voters in 2008. However, political and legal factors could undermine the rail authority’s ability to access these funds.
The rail authority is pitching the first segment as the only way to ensure that a useable segment is built with the existing funding. They hope the segment will bring in some funding through ridership.
A Bay Area watch group said the state is making a terrible decision with their initial segment plan, arguing that the authority would be better off by building a segment from Fresno to San Jose. They argue that the current plan runs the risk of low ridership. Residents of San Jose feel the rail projects will add to the decades of damage to neighborhoods.
The revised business plan has generated renewed criticism among lawmakers and prompted new legislative oversight. A bill approved earlier this week would require the rail authority to provide financing costs to the segments they build, something they have failed to do so far.
The authority proposes building a single line that will link Merced and would eventually be part of the line that will reach Sacramento. They will need to build about 20 miles of track and a large crossover structure known as WYE. It is estimated that this will cost around $2.2 billion.
Under the 2008 bond act, the rail authority must give the business plan to the Legislature by May 1.
We will continue to follow this project as plans evolve. If you think your property or business may be taken for the high-speed rail project, you can learn more about your options by giving us a call at (866) EM-DOMAIN.