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article imagePoll: Californians no longer support bullet train

By Larry Clifton     Jun 4, 2012 in Politics
While building a high-speed rail system for a bullet train appealed to California’s voters in 2008, they are solidly against the proposed project in 2012, according to a new poll.
In 2010, the federal government redirected $624 million in economic stimulus funds from other states to the California high-speed rail project after states like Florida declined the stimulus money due to projected costs, bringing the total available funding, including matching funds, to about $5.5 billion.
However costs of the proposed $68 billion bullet train project have soared and the number of lawsuits filed against the rail system continues to grow. A total of $3.18 billion in federal funding has been approved for the California bullet train so far; it is the largest amount for any pending rail project in the nation.
But a new poll suggests 55 percent of voters want to see the high-speed rail bond issue, approved in 2008, back on the ballot, and 59 percent say they would now vote against it, according to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey (lat.ms/N9tTcm) published Saturday in the Los Angeles Times.
The poll exposed statewide angst over the project and among all ethnic groups, income brackets and even political affiliations. Among Democrats, the plan's main supporters, only 43 percent would vote for the spending bond now, while 47 percent would oppose it. Seventy-six percent of Republicans would vote against it, assuring defeat if a new vote were held today.
Although organized labor has been among the biggest proponents of the project, 56% of union households now would reject the state funding plan, the poll found.
California passed a $9 billion borrowing plan by referendum in 2008 but the projected cost of the bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco has nearly doubled and the “bullet” train would have to share track with slower commuter and freight trains in some areas, according to the report. Add to that a diverse and expanding web of unsettled lawsuits and the actual cost of the project is incalculable.
In 2008 the project received strong support from Democrats but a majority of voters have turned against the costly endeavor just as Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to get lawmakers to fund initial construction in the Central Valley this year.
Meanwhile California is grappling with a $16 billion budget deficit apart from the costs of a bullet train while Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Brown are talking about raising taxes to deal with existing revenue shortfalls.
Voters have withdrawn their support for high-speed rail as California’s Democrat-led state Senate, House and executive branch slash public programs to cope with a widening budget gap, said Dan Schnur, director of the poll and head of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.
"The growing budget deficit is making Californians hesitant about spending so much money on a project like this one when they're seeing cuts to public education and law enforcement," Unruh said. "But they also seem to be wary as to whether state government can run a big speed rail system effectively."
In Southern California, 67 percent of voters said they would reject issuing high-speed rail bonds if they could vote again.
If the bullet train system is built, 69 percent said they would never or hardly ever ride it. No respondents — zero percent — said they would use it more than once a week.
Just 33 percent of respondents said they would prefer a bullet train over an airplane or car on trips between LA and San Francisco.
"The growing budget deficit is making Californians hesitant about spending so much money on a project like this one when they're seeing cuts to public education and law enforcement," Unruh said. "But they also seem to be wary as to whether state government can run a big speed rail system effectively."
More about California budget, Bullet trains, california democrats
 
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