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Readers Weigh In On California's High-Speed Rail News

From "The project was a terrible waste of money" to "For the future generation ... we need to build the High Speed Rail," Bisnow readers weighed in on the move to terminate a nearly $1B federal grant and attempt to recoup $2.5B the federal government has given to California's costly high-speed rail project.

Rendering of California's bullet train
Rendering of California's bullet train inside a terminal

Bisnow surveyed readers for their thoughts on California's high-speed rail project and President Donald Trump's call to pull federal dollars on the costly bullet train. More than 190 people anonymously responded to our questions on whether they supported the bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles, their thoughts on the decision to pull federal funding and what kind of impact this will have on commercial development around transit centers.

"This is very short sighted by the federal government," one reader commented. "I've been on high speed trains (300kph) in other countries and they are very viable. They bring in workers from areas to core work [areas] that the travel time would have been prohibitive. We can't wait to plan for the future." 

But other readers said the project was doomed even before last week's news.

"It was an ill-advised pipe dream with cost overruns from the very start," one respondent said. "We were sold a bill of goods by our leaders in Sacramento."

"Even though it has been explored several times, if private enterprise cannot create a high speed rail system linking Las Vegas and Disneyland, arguably two of the most visited places in the southwest, it never made sense to me that the proposed bullet train would be self sustaining," another reader said.

A day after California, along with 15 other states, sued the federal government over the border wall issue, Trump hit back at the Golden State saying his administration intends to cancel a $928M federal grant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority — the agency that oversees the construction of the bullet train that would have connected Los Angeles to San Francisco and later perhaps Sacramento to San Diego.

On Twitter, Trump wrote the project is filled with cost overruns, that California has wasted billions of dollars and there is no hope for completion.

Gov. Gavin Newsom stated similar concerns about the project during his State of the State address prior to the moves to pull federal funding. Newsom said the state would scale back on the project.

The cost of the 520-mile bullet train has ballooned from $33B to $77B and completion is now projected in 2033 — 13 years behind the original target date of 2020. Newsom said he expects only the Central Valley portion of the project — from Merced to Bakersfield — to be completed sometime around 2025. 

Newsom said the state doesn't plan on paying back the federal funds that have gone into the costly project and the construction, for at least the Central Valley, will continue as planned. Federal funding only makes up about 4% of total project costs.

Rendering of California's high speed rail
Rendering of California's high-speed rail

Here are some of the key findings of the survey:

63% do not support California's bullet train project.

73% do not believe the high-speed rail project would ever be completed as envisioned.

80% believe Newsom shouldn't have prioritized the construction of the high-speed rail in the Central Valley first.

68% agree with the decision to pull the brakes on the high-speed rail project.

60% believe we will see a slowdown in commercial real estate investment and projects around those transit centers anticipating high-speed rail.