Governor seeks private partners

The private sector needs to step up and state legislators need to embrace private-public partnerships if the state’s proposed high-speed rail line is going to be built, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday.

The state needs to take care of prison reforms, water storage and road maintenance before turning its attention toward high-speed rail, the governor said during a policy speech hosted by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Addressing several hundred businessmen and women at the Pacific Gas and Electric building downtown, the governor delved into his proposed 2007-08 state budget, health care reform, environmentally friendly building and trade policy, education, immigration and the state’s infrastructure, such as its prisons, roads and levees.

Schwarzenegger said the future of high-speed rail was in building public-private partnerships to help fund the estimated $40 billion project that would see Sacramento and the Bay Area connected to Southern California and Los Angeles by a two-and-a-half hour train ride.

A $10 billion state bond is tentatively scheduled to go before voters in November 2008, and a recent vote by the California High-Speed Rail Authority named the Bay Area-to-Anaheim phase its top priority. The authority hopes to attract $5 billion to $7.5 billion in private investment for the project.

“I’m a big believer in mass transit. I’m a big believer in high-speed rail,” Schwarzenegger said. “I think this high-speed rail is a great possibility, but I want us working on the private participation — private partnerships — then we can commit to the $10 billion to put in from the public sector.”

The Bay Area trip was Schwarzenegger’s second — he visited the MacArthur Maze on May 25 after it reopened — since the announcement of his revised budget proposal in May, which local transit agencies lambasted because of its $1.3 billion in cuts to transportation.

BART was shorted $28 million in the budget, which the agency had planned on using for upgrades and retrofitting, officials said. Schwarzenegger’s proposal also cut $36 million from what Muni was expecting, spokeswoman Maggie Lynch said. If the governor were such a believer in mass transit as he said he was, then he would keep that money coming to transit, she said.

BART Board President Lynette Sweet took issue with the governor’s touting his “green,” or environmentally friendly, policies, saying the cuts to mass transit in his May budget proposal did not support the greening of California.

“The Maze meltdown a couple of weeks ago let us know what happens when a major artery goes down,” Sweet said. “I heard the words he’s saying. I just don’t see the action.”

dsmith@examiner.com

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