Valley Republicans skeptical of positive High-Speed Rail report

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A newly released report says that high-speed rail construction is taking off around Fresno, but Republican lawmakers say the report is not as optimistic as it seems.

Massive columns are rising parallel to Highway 99 as the High-Speed Rail project slowly accelerates above Fresno's skyline.

"It's a great feeling that we are making these improvements to the Central Valley and, eventually, we'll have another mode of transportation," Central Valley regional director Diana Gomez said.

On Wednesday, the High Speed Rail Authority filed a report to the legislature that outlines a series of accomplishments. The report states that over 900 construction workers are building 119 miles of new infrastructure at 10 active sites - boosting businesses in Fresno.

"Each construction package has different small businesses, so we've also helped reduce that employment rate so huge economic benefits for the Central Valley," Gomez said.

But Republican lawmakers say the report is all smoke and mirrors and doesn't address the money part of this massive project. So far, the Central Valley has spent over $3 billion on contracts - about 90 percent of their federal grant.

"They simply do not have enough money to complete this project," assembly member Jim Patterson said. "They are making it up as they go along, and this report is nothing more than happy talk."

High-Speed Rail officials say the Central Valley track that runs between Merced and Shafter is still about $2 billion short. The money is supposed to come from cap and trade auctions and public-private partnerships.

"They have to come to terms that cap and trade auditions are falling apart," Patterson said. "They have to come to terms with the fact, as it looks to me, the United States Congress is not going to put any more money into this. And the big question is, how do they complete the project?"

The entire project is projected to cost $64 billion. And, according to Patterson's office, it's still missing about $40 billion in funding.
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