By David Siders
dsiders@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011 – 9:05 am

For all the questions about its management and cost, this much is clear about high-speed rail: Californians who authorized the project three years ago want a do-over, according to a new Field Poll, and by a wide margin they want to vote “no.”

Opposition to the multibillion-dollar project crosses party lines and includes more than a third of voters who previously favored the state’s plan to build a high-speed rail system.

It comes after the California High-Speed Rail Authority last month revised the estimated cost of construction to almost $100 billion over 20 years, more than twice what was previously thought.

“These were supporters of high-speed rail to begin with,” poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “More than a third are now on the ‘no’ side.”

The poll could hardly come at a worse time for the rail authority, which is seeking approval of the Legislature to start construction in the Central Valley next year.

Nearly two-thirds of voters, or 64 percent, want the Legislature to call for a re-vote, according to the poll. If such an election were held, 59 percent of voters say they would reject the $9.9 billion bond package Californians approved three years ago, the poll found.

Pluralities of Democrats, Republicans and independents all oppose the project, according to the poll.

“I think we need it, but the price of it is too much,” said Jay Ward, a 55-year-old from Fresno who originally supported the measure but opposes it now.

The electorate’s worsening view of high-speed rail is at least in part in response to rising cost estimates and the project timeline’s extension to 2033. But it likely also reflects a more general resistance to spending in the weak economy.

“The whole economic climate has changed, the state budget situation has changed,” DiCamillo said. “I think we’re just in a totally different environment, and a $9 billion project I think would have less chance of passage now than … three years ago.”

The poll is Field’s first measurement of public opinion about the project since 2008, when 52.7 percent of voters approved Proposition 1A, contemplating a network of high-speed trains connecting the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas by 2020.

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