Political battle over controversial bullet train project will continue

Political battle over controversial bullet train project will continue

California's multi-billion bullet train project is perhaps the most controversial infrastructure project in the history of the Golden State.

The project still faces several legal and regulatory challenges, especially in the construction of first 130-mile segment of the railway through the Central Valley. The scale of opposition of the project can be estimated from several polls that showed that voters would have killed the project by a two-to-one margin it was put up for a referendum.

The opposition is particularly strong in the Central Valley and Southern California, the regions where Democrats seem most vulnerable in elections to be held in November this year. That could be the reason why four House Democrats last week voted for a modification that would obstruct future federal funding for the project.

The Democrats who openly declared that they want to block federal funding for the bullet train project are: Rep. Ami Bera (Elk Grove), Julia Brownley (Ventura), Raul Ruiz (Inland Empire), and Scott Peters (San Diego). It may be noted here that Bera and Jim Costa, a representative from Fresno who didn't vote, were among the leaders who had supported the project in 2010.

But, California's recently passed budget allocates $250 million for the bullet train project during 2014-15 and 25 per cent of future revenues from the state's cap-&-trade auctions for high-speed rail. As per the state legislative analyst's estimates, the auctions will fetch $12-$45 billion cumulatively by the end of current decade.

The political battle over the high-speed rail project will likely continue and even heat up in the near future as the project will become even more unpopular due to escalating costs.

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