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Calif. high-speed rail campaign begins

(The following story by Steve Hymon appeared on the Los Angeles Times website on September 17.)

LOS ANGELES — The campaign for Proposition 1A, the $9.95-billion high-speed rail bond, now has a website, Californians for High-Speed Trains. It says the train would "take travelers from the Bay Area to Southern California in 2+ hours, with stops in every major city on the way."

The actual figure the campaign touts elsewhere on its website is that it would take 2 hours, 38 minutes from San Francisco to Los Angeles. That means the train has to travel an average speed of 163 mph while navigating through urban corridors and traveling up and over mountains.

Meanwhile, the fund-raising committee for the campaign is also called Californians for High Speed Trains, and as of Tuesday evening, it was reporting about $130,000 in contributions, according to the Cal-Access state database. The largest corporate donation was $30,000 from Parsons Brinckerhoff, the New York-based engineering and planning firm. It even got a photo of a bullet train that occasionally pops up on its home page.

Another group, called the Assn. for California High-Speed Trains, has kicked in $24,000. It's a consortium of engineering and construction firms, according to the list of companies on its website. The list includes IBI Group, CH2M Hill and Hatch Mott MacDonald.

The campaign also received more than $50,000 from a previous high-speed rail fund-raising committee, which in turn received money from another committee called "Californians for Clean, Safe, Reliable Water." That committee has reported donations going back to 1999 and 2000, and the list of contributors comes mostly from the world of agriculture. This isn't unusual at the state level -- committees shift money between themselves all the time, whether or not that's what the donor intended.

Regular Bottleneck reader Dana Gabbard also found a website devoted to opposing Proposition 1A, from a group calling itself Derail. It features a very funny cartoon of a bullet train eating money. The group says it consists of people who live near the Caltrain rail corridor in the Bay Area. The California High-Speed Rail Authority wants to use that corridor to connect San Jose to San Francisco.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

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