March 24, 2016

The Sacramento Bee: High-speed rail support hovers above majority, but possible detours loom

There’s been little positive buzz of late about California’s high-speed rail system.

Gov. Jerry Brown, among its biggest boosters, seldom brings up the ambitious and expensive infrastructure project. And the first declared candidate running to succeed Brown in 2018, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, said two years ago he favors redirecting voter-approved rail money toward other, more pressing undertakings.

Still, the train lurches ahead, with momentum from a recent court victory in which a Sacramento judge rejected claims that plans for the system violate state law.

Now, a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows support for rail hovering just above 50 percent among adults (similar to findings since the question was first asked in March 2012). It’s not as popular among those most likely to vote this year, registering at 44 percent support.

Then the poll measured how the project, now estimated to cost $64 billion, would fare if it were less expensive. Support swelled to 66 percent with adults and 59 percent with likely voters. A third of adults and a quarter of likely voters said rail is very important to the future quality of life and economic vitality of California.

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