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Calif. high-speed train vote faces delay

(The Associated Press distributed the following article on April 13.)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Legislation by the Schwarzenegger administration to delay a public vote on nearly $10 billion in high-speed rail bonds until 2008 was approved Monday by the Assembly Transportation Committee.

The $9.95 billion bond measure is currently scheduled to appear on the ballot this coming November. It would help pay for the first leg of a proposed 700-mile rail system linking the state's major cities with trains running at top speeds of more than 200 mph.

But even supporters of high-speed rail agree that the vote should be delayed because the state's fiscal problems make passage unlikely this year.

Last month, the Senate Transportation Committee approved a bill by its chairman, Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, to delay the vote until November 2006.

But administration representatives said the state isn't likely to emerge from its budget doldrums by then.

"The state cannot afford a high-speed rail system at this time," said Assemblyman Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont, who is carrying the bill for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that would delay the vote until 2008.

"If this were to appear on the November ballot I believe its chances of passage would be minimal."

But Assemblyman John Longville, D-Rialto, said he was concerned that delaying the start of construction of high-speed rail too long would make environmental studies currently under way for the project outdated.

Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said a well-designed high-speed rail system would be a "potentially remarkable tool for not only smart growth but sound environmental policy, land-use planning, business development, congestion relief and economic opportunity for the Central Valley."

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

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