California voters to decide fate of ambitious bullet train project on election day 2008-10-19 10:54:28   Print

    LOS ANGELES, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- When voters in California cast their ballots in the presidential election on Nov. 4, they will also decide the fate of a controversial project that supporters say could reshape the transportation landscape in the car-crazy state.

    Proposition 1A on the ballot will ask for voters' approval of an early 10-billion-dollar down payment toward a proposed high-speed rail system across the state.

    Supporters boast that the bullet train project, which could cost a total of 45 billion dollars upon completion, would be the most ambitious public-works effort in the United States since the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869.

    With high gas prices, congested highways and crowded airports becoming common things, it seems that the time has come to put the bullet train project on the agenda.

    However, opponents warn that the project would cost much more than originally planned and could become a fiscal black hole, and it is not an appropriate time for the project as California is facing a perpetual budget deficit and the country is undergoing a financial meltdown.

    A poll conducted earlier this year found 56 percent of Californian voters support financing the bullet train project this year, but that was before Wall Street panic hit the Main Street.

    It is still unclear whether voters would approve the ballot measure, which would raise construction money for the project by authorizing the state government to sell 9.95 billion dollars of bonds.

    California's dream of a bullet train first began in the late 1970s when then-governor Jerry Brown proposed a high-speed railroad between Los Angeles and San Diego, but the plan was shelved due to objections from coastal residents.

    Meanwhile, the high-speed rail system has been a different story in other parts of the world. Germany, Spain, Italy and France all have high-speed trains. In Asia, Japan's Shinkansen bullet train started rolling in 1964 and China introduced high-speed train services on major lines of its sprawling railway system last year.

    In California, a state commission was set up in 1994 to study the idea of building a high-speed railroad between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Two years later the California High-Speed Rail Authority was established.

    The authority has so far spent 60 million dollars planning the project, which researchers said would slash greenhouse-gas emissions in the car-dependent state, significantly reduce traveling times, and more importantly, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

    "The California High-Speed Rail Authority has worked diligently to present the voters with the best, most responsible improvements to the state's antiquated transportation systems," said Quentine Kopp, chairman of the authority.

    Kopp said building a high-speed train network in California would cost two to three times less than expanding highways and airports to accommodate increasing transportation needs in the state in the coming decades.

Editor: Du Guodong
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