Newsom Attempts To Clarify Incoherent Comments On High-Speed Rail Project

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom attempted to clarify comments he made Tuesday suggesting he was abandoning a pricey high-speed rail project, but conservatives believe his remarks are a ruse to expand the line.

The multi-billion-dollar project connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco is not dead, Jesse Melgar, a spokesman in Newsom’s office, told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Wednesday. His comments come after Newsom said during his State of the State address the line “would cost too much.”

“We have to be realistic about the project — that means refocus and reprioritize to get a finished section from Bakersfield to Merced,” Melgar said, adding that the governor intends on “completing the bookend projects and finishing the environmental review for the SF to LA leg.”

He has not responded to follow-up questions about the inconsistencies in the governor’s speech. For instance, Newsom suggested building a line between Bakersfield and Merced rather than a project designed to connect the state’s two largest cities. His comments didn’t leave much room for ambiguity.

“Let’s level about the high-speed rail,” he said during Tuesday’s speech. “Let’s be real, the current project as planned would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were.”

An employee works on a high-speed train model CRH380B at a final assembly line of China CNR’s Tangshan Railway Vehicle’s factory in Tangshan, Hebei province, February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Voters approved a bond to build the line in 2008. The plan was to connect major urban centers on a single line, which was expected to cost $33 billion. Cost projections more than doubled to $77 billion in 2018. (RELATED: California’s Plan To Finish 119 Miles Of High-Speed Rail TO Cost $89 Million Per Mile — Four Times More Than Trump’s Border Wall)

Supporters often use accounting tricks like leaving out construction costs and indirect subsidies. Only two systems in the world operate at a profit — one line in Paris-Lyon in France and another in Tokyo-Osaka, Japan, both of which are heavily urbanized. There’s another line in Europe that comes out even.

Conservatives were skeptical at the outset about the Democratic governor’s original remarks.

“He’s not abandoning the project,” Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, told TheDCNF Wednesday, mirroring a press statement he published shortly after Newsom’s speech Tuesday.

“Newsom wants to spend tens of billions on a rail line between Merced and Bakersfield — a complete waste. 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,” the statement read.

The controversy comes after a document posted online fleshing out elements of the so-called Green New Deal suggests Democrats are looking to “[b]uild out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.”

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