"It's not the perfect solution," said deputy director Lance Simmens. "But I can't stress enough how by proceeding like that, you are building something that has real value, has usefulness."
Killing project not easy
Yet it will be no easy task to cancel the project.
First, if costs stop rising and the funding materializes, the state's down payment to launch the project may prove to be a springboard to extend the first leg far enough to start service.
And perhaps most important to politicians: If California does not break ground on the rail line by this time next year, it will have to return more than $2.2 billion in federal stimulus grants, since the funds were tied to producing jobs quickly. For officials under fire to create jobs, turning back that much construction money would anger business and labor groups who have led the call to support the bullet train.
Scrapping the railroad would all but send $650 million down the drain, as the rail authority has spent that much planning the project since 1998.
Then there's the fact that voters already approved the project in 2008. But since then, the price tag has escalated by $12 billion, sources of funding have dried up, projected ticket prices have nearly doubled and expected rider counts have dwindled. In effect, the state isn't any closer to financing the project today than it was three years ago.
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705.