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High-speed rail bond goes before Calif. voters in 2004

SACRAMENTO -- After signing the $9.95 billion bond for a California bullet train, Gov. Gray Davis rendered a split decision on two other bills affecting the massive rail project, the Desert Sun reported.

Davis signed one measure to establish a permanent agency to take charge of the high-speed train project and vetoed another that would have given the San Joaquin Valley a greater say in the agency’s work.

Senate Bill 796 by Sen. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, was signed to eliminate the shutdown date of Dec. 31, 2003, for the High-Speed Rail Authority, thus making the agency permanent.

The governor vetoed SB 1799, which would have required that at least two members of the nine-member board of this authority be San Joaquin Valley residents.

Current law requires the governor to consider the state’s geographic diversity in making appointments to the rail authority to ensure that all regions are adequately represented, without identifying any specific region, according to a legislative analysis of AB 1799.

Right now, there is one San Joaquin Valley member on the board, and there have been three at different times since the authority was created in 1996, according to Sen. Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, the author of SB 1799.

The rail authority was responsible for the proposed project’s plan, which calls for a 700-mile system for trains capable of traveling at speeds of more than 200 miles per hour connecting Northern and Southern California.

Most of the $9.95 billion bond, which must be approved by voters in 2004, would make a major down payment on the $12 billion cost of the first 400-mile phase of the project. Supporters have said the rest of the money for the initial phase likely would come from federal, private and other non-state sources.

The bond includes $950 million for improvements to existing conventional trains.

Friday, October 4, 2002

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