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Public supports high-speed rail project, survey reports

POSTED July 30, 2010 10:48 p.m.

California’s high-speed rail network can’t get here soon enough, according to three-quarters of Californians polled in a survey released Wednesday – just in time for a California High-Speed Rail Authority lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. on Thursday and Friday.

Of those polled, 34 percent said they would like to see the project move forward “as quickly as possible,” 42 percent said they would like to see the network built, despite concerns over the estimated $42 billion final cost, and 13 percent opposed the project.

“Californians are telling us loudly and clearly that they support the state’s high-speed rail project, and that’s the message we will be delivering in Washington this week to the Administration and the Congressional leadership,” said Curt Pringle, chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority.

The survey, conducted by two California-based research firms, polled 806 registered California voters via telephone and an additional 400 in person. The results, accurate to within 3.5 percent, are the first measurement of public opinion since 2008, when voters approved a $9.95 billion state bond measure for high-speed rail.

The survey also found that seven out of 10 Californians would prefer to travel long distances via high-speed rail, after being informed a trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles would likely cost less than an airline ticket or car travel while being more environmentally friendly. A trip from Modesto to Los Angeles would take about two hours, at a cost of approximately $46, according to CHSRA projections.

Other key findings included a 60 percent support rate for investing in the project and moving forward now, while 33 percent opposed construction over cost, ridership, and environmental concerns. Additionally, 11 percent of voters became more supportive of the project after hearing a detailed description of the plan.

CHSRA officials shared the survey results with leaders in Washington, D.C. on Thursday and Friday, in a trip aimed at securing an additional $1 billion in federal funding.

“It’s critical that we be able to show federal officials – as well as our potential partners in the private sector – that Californians remain firmly in support of the high-speed train project,” Pringle said. “These results demonstrate that support, and show that the more Californians know about this project, the stronger their commitment to it. That’s gratifying to see – and it underscores the importance of ensuring that every Californian remains informed about this historic project.”

In January, the CHSRA won $2.25 billion in federal stimulus funds. A new round of funding is due out soon, with $2.3 billion in additional funds available for high-speed and intercity rail projects nationwide.

CHSRA’s application would spend the $1 billion on some track and signaling work from Merced to Bakersfield, track and infrastructure on the Los Angeles to Anaheim route, west of the Los Angeles River, electrification of the San Francisco to San Jose section, and construction of a station in Millbrae.

Should the CHSRA find the $42 billion total needed to complete the project, construction on the 220 mile-per-hour, 800-mile rail system, stretching from San Francisco to San Diego, will begin in 2012. The system would be rideable by 2017, though the Merced to Sacramento branch and Modesto station are scheduled for a later phase of construction.

For more information on the California High-Speed Rail Authority, visit http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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