LOS ANGELES – The long-touted dream of a high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco — using a route that would include a stop in Palmdale — was put on hold Tuesday, with Gov. Gavin Newsom saying that he respects the idea but the project needs a major reevaluation.
“There’s no doubt that our state’s economy and quality of life depend on improving transportation,” Newsom said during his State of the State Address in Sacramento. “But let’s be real. The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.
“Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A.,” he said. “I wish there were.”
Newsom said he wants the state to move ahead with a high-speed line between Merced and Bakersfield.
“I know that some critics will say this is a ‘train to nowhere,’ but that’s wrong and offensive. The people of the Central Valley endure the worst air pollution in America as well as some of the longest commutes. And they have suffered too many years of neglect from policymakers here in Sacramento. They deserve better.”
Newsom fell short of entirely scrapping the idea of a statewide rail line, saying environmental work will continue and the state will keep pushing for “more federal funding and private dollars.”
“But let’s just get something done,” he said.
That caveat led to outrage from some critics who said Newsom should pull the plug on the entire project, which has skyrocketed in cost to more than $70 billion.
“The governor tried to have it both ways — he admitted it has been a failure, but he committed to keep spending billions on the failed project by changing the project to just a Central Valley commuter train from Merced to Bakersfield,” said Sen. Jeff Stone, R-La Quinta. “That’s not what people were promised, and the project should be killed outright.”
Carl DeMaio, chairman of the watchdog group Reform California and a former San Diego City Council member, said Newsom clearly intends to keep the high-speed rail project alive.
“Newsom wants to spend tens of billions on a rail line between Merced and Bakersfield — a complete waste,” DeMaio said. “Once this segment is done, politicians will argue that no one is riding this route because it doesn’t travel far enough, and voila, the entire project will continue. Taxpayers should not be fooled. The insidious move is actually designed to keep this boondoggle alive rather than do the right thing and terminate this wasteful project immediately.”
According to the California High Speed Rail Authority’s website, the proposed high-speed rail station in Palmdale was to be located near Avenue Q and Sierra Highway, south of the Palmdale Transportation Center (PTC). This station was also to have served the proposed XpressWest high-speed rail service to Las Vegas via the future High Desert Corridor.
For more information on the California High Speed Rail and its proposed route, visit: https://www.hsr.ca.gov/.
UPDATE: High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Brian Kelly’s issued the following statement on Gov. Newsom’s state of the state address:
The Governor has called for setting a priority on getting high speed rail operating in the only region in which we have commenced construction—the Central Valley. We are eager to meet this challenge and expand the project’s economic impact in the Central Valley.
Importantly, he also reaffirmed our commitment to complete the environmental work statewide, to meet our “bookend” investments in the Bay Area and Los Angeles and to pursue additional federal and private funding for future project expansion.
We welcome this direction and look forward to continuing the important work on this transformative project.”