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State Analyst Questions New High Speed Rail Proposal

California’s high-speed rail project has received fresh scrutiny on its latest proposed business plan. The Legislature's non-partisan budget analyst released a new report Thursday that questions how the project will be funded.

The High-Speed Rail Authority announced last month that, instead of opening the first segment of the rail line in Southern California, it would start with a less-costly northern section from San Jose to Kern County.

The authority says it has the funds to get that portion of the system up and running, because the governor has pledged a quarter of all cap and trade proceeds to the project. The report notes that, contrary to the authority's plan, lawmakers would need to approve those funds after 2020.

"About half of the funding identified in the draft business plan for the proposed IOS is from cap and trade auction revenues after 2020. While the administration indicates it plans to continue the cap and trade program beyond 2020, current law does not appear to authorize the program’s continuation," the report states. "This means that without legislative action, the cap and trade funds HSRA plans to use to build the IOS would likely not be available."

The report also questions the new plan’s southern terminus. Without federal assistance, the initial line would end just north of Shafter, California, a town with a population of 18,000 people.

In a statement, the High Speed Rail Authority points out another section of the Legislative Analyst's Office report finds starting the rail line in the North has “some merit.”