Is California's high-speed rail plan another 'bridge to nowhere?'

The Sacramento BeeJune 6, 2011 

FRESNO — The plan for high-speed rail in California is to start on the Fresno side of the San Joaquin River, between Bakersfield and Chowchilla, and go until the money runs out.

The Central Valley, for many reasons, is a practical place to begin. The land is broad and flat and relatively inexpensive, and the federal government, which is contributing billions of dollars, requires it.

The first section will one day form the spine of a system connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco, officials say. But there is no money guaranteed to build the rest, and the initial tracks, through towns like Wasco and Madera, are conspicuously far from where most people live.

For the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the location has become a political and public relations challenge.

"It's a 'Bridge to Nowhere,' " said Adriana Gianturco, who was California's transportation director three decades ago when the state first considered high-speed rail.

A bridge to nowhere, she said, "does not gain political support."

Farmers on the line are calling lawyers and organizing opposition, and criticism is intensifying at the Capitol.

Last month, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said the rail authority's financial assumptions are optimistic and its management inadequate. It cited "significant risk" that the project will never be finished, and suggested starting in Los Angeles or the Bay Area in case nothing else is built.

Rail officials are undeterred. They plan to release a new business plan in October, including updated financial and ridership projections.

To read the complete article, visit www.sacbee.com.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service