Legislature Appears To Have Votes To Approve HSR Funding
Big news today out of Sacramento, where Bee columnist and high speed rail opponent Dan Walters concedes that the votes appear to be there in the Legislature to approve HSR funding:
Its popularity has declined sharply, many of its details have yet to emerge, and independent authorities have questioned its financial and operational viability, but California’s bullet train project is very likely to get the green light from the Legislature soon.
That’s the consensus of those who have been counting votes among the Legislature’s dominant Democrats, who can give the California High-Speed Rail Authority authorization to sell bonds and begin construction of an initial segment in the San Joaquin Valley.
As you can tell by that first paragraph, Walters isn’t happy about this, and the rest of his column is devoted to a rehash of his usual, debunked criticisms of the project. But it’s the news about the votes that really matters. Walters has good sources inside the Legislature and this is a good sign that Democrats won’t join the Republicans and the Tea Party to kill one of President Barack Obama’s signature initiatives.
No word yet on whether Senators Joe Simitian or Alan Lowenthal are among the yes votes for HSR funding, but if other Democrats are supportive, that’s all that’s needed. Governor Jerry Brown’s strong support for the project, combined with the obvious need for affordable non-oil based transportation within California, have certainly helped. So too has the work of new California High Speed Rail Authority board chairman Dan Richard, who has been working to lower the cost of the project and get more funding to the Bay Area and Southern California for HSR work.
Still, we know that this news will drive the anti-rail zealots crazy, and they will intensify their efforts to kill the project in the Legislature. So HSR supporters need to continue their efforts to lobby legislators to do the right thing and vote to fund high speed rail in California this year.