Phil Matier: Congress Reviews Rising Costs of Calif. High-Speed Rail

WASHINGTON (KCBS) – A House committee questioned the head of the California High-Speed Rail Authority on Thursday about the growing cost of building a rail line to connect the state’s major cities.

House Republicans have been critical of the Obama administration’s spending on high-speed rail construction nationwide, including $3 billion of stimulus money committed to the California project.

KCBS, CBS 5 and SF Chronicle Insider Phil Matier:

Public support for high-speed rail in the state has declined since voters approved $10 billion in 2008 to finance construction. A Field Poll released earlier in December found that by more than 2 – 1, California voters would like the state Legislature to call for a re-vote on the project.

“I don’t know if anything this big could get done,” said KCBS, CBS 5  and SF Chronicle Insider Phil Matier.

Matier said resistance throughout the state to the actual route of the tracks helped push up the price tag because the law authorizing the Rail Authority also mandates train speeds.

“You have to be able to get from San Francisco to LA in 2 hours and 40 minutes,” he said, which would require 150 miles of viaducts and tunnels to guarantee those trip times.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee called Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and several members of California’s Congressional delegation, to testify.

The hearing follows a confrontation last week when the same committee grilled Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood about the viability of other rail projects around the country.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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