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Lawmaker wants independent rail

(The following story by Lesli A. Maxwell was publshed on the Modesto Bee’s January 29 online edition)

SACRAMENTO -- A valley lawmaker is challenging Gov. Davis over the future of the state agency in charge of bringing a bullet train system to California.

Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, introduced legislation Monday that would keep the California High Speed Rail Authority independent -- a move that counters Davis' budget proposal to fold the small agency into the state Department of Transportation as a cost-cutting measure.

Davis and the Legislature are faced with filling a record budget shortfall that the governor says could reach nearly $35 billion.

But Florez, a former appointee to the nine-member rail authority, says the governor's plans could doom the success of a $9.95 billion bond measure intended to pay for building the first phase of a bullet train connecting the state's major population hubs.

Voters will decide the matter in November 2004.

The bullet train proposal calls for trains that would travel up to 220 mph and move passengers between the Bay Area and Los Angeles in 2 1/2 hours.

Florez unveiled his legislation at a San Francisco meeting of the rail authority Monday.

Besides preserving the high-speed rail agency, Florez's bill goes further to transfer all passenger rail projects to its purview.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

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