Experts Urge California Senate To Ignore Criticism Of High-Speed Rail Plan

SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – The state should not change its plan for high speed rail despite concerns raised by the nonpartisan legislative analyst, according to experts who insisted that critics do not understand the nuances of building bullet trains in California.

“Making a change at this stage is extremely detrimental to the project,” said Roelef Van Ark, CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority.

Van Ark responded to blistering criticism from the state legislative analyst, who questioned the flexibility of federal funding guidelines that led rail construction to begin in the Central Valley.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Beginning construction in Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco would cost billions more, Van Ark told the Senate Select Committee on High Speed Rail.

Legislative analyst Mac Taylor recommended scrapping the Central Valley segment in favor of an area with more passengers such as Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Taylor also urged the state to disband the California High-Speed Rail Authority and turn the project over to Caltrans.

Former Caltrans director Will Kempton, who led a separate review of the rail project, concurred with some of Taylor’s findings.

Kempton testified that the rail authority needs more staff, more funding sources and a better business model. But in his view, none of those concerns should delay the project.

“We should move full steam ahead, trying to accommodate those guidelines that have been provided in order to take advantage of the federal funding,” Kempton said.

Exactly where to build the high speed line has been a controversial subject, particularly on the Peninsula, since voters approved Prop 1A, a $10 billion bond in 2008 to help fund construction.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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