Commentary: Why pull the plug on high-speed rail?

News about California's high-speed rail project has taken on a Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde quality.

On one side, there's never been more momentum. Headlines tout California's new billions in unexpected federal funds, as other states have turned back high-speed rail funds. The federal $3.9 billion is more than was ever anticipated at this stage of the project.

That follows voter approval in 2008 of a nearly $10 billion bond to help develop and construct high-speed rail. President Barack Obama has made high-speed rail a top national priority, while Gov. Jerry Brown's record of support dates back to the 1970s.

Beyond that, there's the assurance that other countries have built successful high-speed rail systems and California has the population density to equal those systems, as the Paris-Lyon-Marseille comparison chart shows.

Then there's the other side.

In the aftermath of the May 10 Legislative Analyst's Office report, "High-speed rail is at a critical juncture," headlines have been equally dominated by hand-wringing and calls to slow down or end the project.

With a public infrastructure project of this size and complexity, this dual personality should surprise no one.

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