California lawmakers voice concerns about extra $1.3B in high-speed rail plan

California Connection

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — California’s latest high-speed rail business plan is drawing bipartisan frustration from state lawmakers.

“This is really a mess in front of us,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle aired out their concerns Thursday with the project.

The latest business plan calls for an extra $1.3 billion of the $80 billion bullet train project. The immediate plan includes completion of a line from Bakersfield to Merced by 2022, with plans to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles by 2033.

The High-Speed Rail Authority cited inflation and a better cost estimate for the latest bump in the project’s bottom line.

“I’d like to know more about the ridership numbers. I’d like to the cost of the ticket, the time that’s added because of making people change trains,” said Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale.

To sort out some of those issues, lawmakers are hoping to have a hearing on the business plan. Assembly Republican Whip Devon Mathis introduced a bill that would do just that for the duration of the project.

“I think there are a lot of assumptions in the plan that I’d like to see justified,” Friedman said.

Although Democrats and Republicans shared frustration over the project’s latest development, valley and coastal lawmakers have different visions on how the money could be better spent.

“A better use of these funds could be to delay electrification of the Central Valley line,” Friedman said. “Use that money instead on already prioritized high-speed rail projects in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.”

“I guess we have to accept a rump railroad between Bakersfield and Merced or Modesto,” Patterson said. “But the sooner this is ended, the sooner they make Central California whole.”

The High-Speed Rail Authority has until May to send a finalized version of the plan to the Legislature.

Ashley Zavala filed this report.

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