California voters split on support of high-speed rail project

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California's bullet train project has voters across the state split.

In a recent USC/Los Angeles Times poll about 48% of respondents said they support the project, while 43% oppose it. With a 4% margin of error, there's not strong support for or opposition to the plan.

"I think for the people that live here in the Central Valley it has been positive," says Diana Gomez, the Central Valley Regional Director for the California High Speed Rail Authority.

No one can deny high-speed rail has put people to work. Dozens of local businesses have benefited because of the project.

"We have over 70 or 80 small businesses in the Central Valley working on the construction, so I think here you are seeing the benefits and as we continue to progress you will see a lot more support for the project," says Gomez.

That remains to be seen.

For many voters, the problem is cost. The bullet train budget has doubled to $77 billion, and the schedule has been pushed to 2033.

When the pollsters informed the same respondents about those facts, 49% said they would stop construction. 31% said they would continue building and 19% said they did not know what to do about the project.

LINK: Complete crosstabs of poll

"I like to call the high speed rail the 'Fresno Overpass Authority' because in the end that's all its going to be," says Fresno City Councilmember Clint Olivier.

Olivier has been a staunch opponent of the plan and is not surprised by the latest findings in the survey.

"The taxpayer is the person putting money into this. There is nobody in the free market in private business in the world who would look at these documents and say 'I want to invest in this.'"

Olivier says he has evidence to back him up.

Ten years ago, voters were told they would be on the hook for $9.95 billion. The difference would be made up by federal and private investment but that never happened.

"We have some challenges, just like any construction project, but our goal is minimize any of those challenges as they come up," Gomez said.
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