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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: California’s bullet train is still an outrage, even if we’re numb to delays and overruns

High-speed rail construction
Construction of a viaduct for California’s high-speed rail line is seen in 2017.
(California High-Speed Rail Authority)

To the editor: The bullet train project is an unbelievable outrage. From the nearly $10 billion approved in 2008 toward a project initially believed to total $30 billion, the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco portion is now estimated to come in around $80 billion. (“New bullet train plan paints optimistic picture, but opposition continues to grow,” Feb. 15)

Where is the furor? Are we so numbed by the delays and cost increases that we will just let the politicians play their game? If Gov. Gavin Newsom had an ounce of leadership, he would take charge and corral this debacle.

The worst part is that project managers measure progress by the amount of money spent. The success of responsible capital projects is not measured this way. When we build a house, we approximate cost per square foot. Sewer lines and streets are measured in cost per foot. This project should be measured by cost per mile.

We are foolish to allow this project to continue without some responsible management.

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Randall St. Aubyn, Sierra Madre

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To the editor: It should be remembered that voters in 2008 approved initial funding for rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles, best defined as a straight line that generally parallels the 5 Freeway through relatively undeveloped grazing and farm land in the Central Valley. Such a system with the contemplated 180-mph trains would be competitive with airlines.

The route currently being engineered is more than 100 miles longer, a distance that will require trains to operate at speeds above 250 mph if they are to conform to the original proposal.

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Voters are not getting the backbone line they approved in 2008. First, there was the rerouting to Palmdale to serve Antelope Valley commuters, then local stops at Bakersfield, Fresno and Tulare. The same politicians who turned the project into a pork barrel have become “critics” who attack the bullet train.

Stop blaming California High-Speed Rail Authority staff; they do only what they are told. Coming together now is a brand new rail line from Bakersfield to Tulare that can be operated without electrification (while meeting diesel pollution standards) at speeds of up to 125 mph with existing equipment.

We need a fresh start for high-speed rail in California, with an independent elected board and tightly written bond underwriting.

Joe Strapac, Bellflower

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To the editor: Criticism of the bullet train continues, with cost overruns, pushed-back completion dates, revised business plans and other changes. However, I do not recall any indication that when the project is complete, enough riders will support high-speed rail to maintain the system.

If ticket revenues do not cover costs, will California taxpayers have to shoulder yet another burden to keep high-speed rail operational?

Richard Austin, Playa del Rey


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