High-speed rail bond has strong Bay Area support

Bay Area residents fed up with bumper-to-bumper traffic overwhelmingly support shelling out nearly $10 billion in state funds for a 200-mph train connecting the state’s major cities, a recent poll indicates.

A statewide survey of 800 registered voters shows that 67 percent of Bay Area residents plan to vote “yes” on a $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond in November, an approval rating higher than any other California region.

Statewide, 58 percent of voters approved of the bond measure, and 61 percent said “yes” in the Los Angeles and San Joaquin areas, the study said.

That Bay Area residents want state money set aside for high-speed trains is little surprise, seeing as recent studies place the region among the worst in the nation for traffic congestion and deteriorating roads, said Rod Diridon Sr., a member of the high-speed rail board.

“I think [the Bay Area has] the perfect storm of negatives,” Diridon said. “Our highway system, built back in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, is now falling apart and our population is growing rapidly. Traditional sources of revenue for transportation maintenance and development is declining.”

Diridon added that most Californians don’t realize the bond measure would not increase taxes. He said the bonds would derive from the state’s general fund.

Lawmakers and transportation officials alike say passing the bond measure is crucial to speeding up the start date for rail construction.

Former state Sen. Quentin Kopp, chairman of the rail board, said a November approval of the bond issue “will enable us to be in construction in 2009.”

Kopp called the recent poll “a cherry result” demonstrating increased awareness about the proposed 700-mile, $40 billion rail network that would be built over a 20-year period.

The bond measure has faced obstacles in the past. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has yet to sign on to the measure, twice supported legislation postponing it from going to the ballot.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t support the measure, spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart said. She said there’s no indication at this point that any legislation will be proposed to pull it from the November ballot and added that it’s not unusual for Schwarzenegger to reserve an official opinion on a measure so far from the November election.

maldax@examiner.com

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