Proponents of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail line hope that erecting part of the line now will make future governors less likely to abandon the project. A viaduct in Fresno, Calif., is intended to carry the line over a freeway. (Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
By Adam Nagourney
July 30, 2018
- In the face of sharp opposition and questions about how to pay for it, construction of California’s high-speed rail line is roaring ahead.
FRESNO, Calif. — It is vigorously opposed by Republicans, including President Trump. It has been plagued by escalating costs and delays. Californians are mostly against it. And a central question — how is it going to be paid for — remains unresolved.
But here in the Central Valley, far from the debates in Washington and Sacramento, the $100 billion Los Angeles-to-San Francisco bullet train has moved off the drawing board and onto 21 construction sites spread across five Central California counties.
Work began two weeks ago on one of the more ambitious pieces of the project — an overpass that will carry trains over a major highway in Fresno — and ground will be broken on three more viaducts in the next few months. Nearly 2,000 workers are on the job, starting as early as 5 a.m. to avoid the 110-degree afternoon heat. “Simply put, dirt is flying in the Central Valley,” the High-Speed Rail Authority declared in a recent business plan.
Yet for all the cranes, crews in orange vests, beeping trucks and fresh concrete, it remains far from certain that this project will ever be completed. In addition to the lack of funding, it faces opposition from both Mr. Trump and Kevin McCarthy, the Bakersfield Republican who is the House majority leader.
The continued delays and rising costs have fueled criticism that California, perhaps the most prosperous state in the nation, is squandering money on a transportation project that critics describe as a prime example of big government waste in a state controlled by Democrats.
“This is going to be the most expensive and slowest form of fast rail imaginable,” said Jim Patterson, a former Fresno mayor who is now a Republican member of the Assembly and a critic of the project.
For all the construction, the project faces the ever-present threat that a future governor may decide that state resources would be better used dealing with, to name one example, the housing crisis. Gov. Jerry Brown, a big proponent, is leaving office at the end of the year.
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