Residents to sound off on California high-speed rail bullet train plan

Business leaders

Business leaders, advocates and residents will get to sound off Tuesday at the first legislative public hearing on California's $100 billion high-speed rail plan.

The ambitious project would link San Francisco and Anaheim by bullet train and include the Central Valley.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, who heads the subcommittee that oversees transportation agencies, is leading the hearing at Palo Alto City Hall.

Top officials from the California High Speed Rail Authority are expected to discuss the plan released two weeks ago.

“I find the business plan comprehensive, but there are still questions that remain unanswered — including how the authority plans to pay for the nearly $100 billion project,” Gordon said in a statement released before the hearing.

The new plan estimates the actual cost at $98.5 billion in inflation-adjusted funding over a 20-year construction period.

Critics are most concerned about the costs and revenue projections but have also criticized the project's business model, ridership projections and design.

The plan says the system would be profitable even at the lowest ridership estimates and wouldn't require public operating subsidies.

The plan also says the high-speed rail system will use existing rail lines to carry passengers on the final legs into San Francisco and the Los Angeles basin. Doing so instead of building new high-speed lines not only saves money but also aims to reduce neighborhood objections.

On Monday, objections were made clear at the Palo Alto City Council meeting.

The council voted to send discussion of the plan back to the Rail Committee after considering a harsher proposal by Councilman Larry Klein to request that lawmakers either kill the project or send it back to voters.

Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton and a coalition of nonprofit groups have sued the rail authority over its environmental analysis. Other communities across the state also expressed disapproval of the plan.

The public has 60 days to comment on the new plan. Lawmakers will not vote on whether to approve selling high-speed rail bonds until after they return in January.

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