“The entire huge cost of building the system would be paid for by the taxpayers of California. That’s true of no other large-scale infrastructure. If we build another north-south highway it would be paid for by gas tax and tolls … It makes no sense to me whatsoever from the taxpayer or traveler standpoint.”Poole believes the Rail Authority is being overly optimistic in projecting ridership of 100 million by 2030 and operating revenue of $1 billion a year.Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed slashing the Rail Authority’s budget next year to $1.2 million – down more than $13 million from the level.Kicked off the ballot in 2004 because of the state’s shaky economy, funding for the train was bumped off again in 2006 when lawmakers instead pushed for billions of dollars in bonds to fund freeway improvements.Now Schwarzenegger wants to postpone the ballot measure for a third time, instead proposing more borrowing for prisons, schools, courts and natural resources.The current route plan would zip passengers between San Diego and Sacramento at speeds up to 220 mph, with stops and extensions throughout the Inland Empire, Orange County, Los Angeles County, Central California and the Bay Area.A trip from Union Station to San Francisco is estimated to cost about $70, roughly 70 percent of the air fare, said Mehdi Morshed, executive director of the rail agency.Unlike conventional trains that run on diesel, high-speed trains run on electricity that’s continuously fed through overhead electrical lines and on specially built tracks.Critics contend the project is not a good investment for the state.Norm King, director of the Leonard Transportation Center at Cal State San Bernardino, said there is no assurance the system would draw private investors, averting the need for taxpayer subsidies.King said money would be better invested in highway projects because roads would create more congestion relief to residents than a high-speed rail could ever provide.Kopp said it’s a misconception to think that a high-speed rail would need subsidies. He said private money will come after investors see the reality of the project, which will arrive when voters approve a bond. He cited successful high-speed rails in Japan and [email protected](916) 446-6723160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “I think people are sick and tired of long commutes, tired of not knowing whether their plane is going to come in on time, tired of the high cost of gas and airline tickets,” Ma said in a phone interview, shortly after riding on the record-breaking French train.The California High-Speed Rail Authority is set to hold public meetings in Los Angeles this month on a proposed Southern California route that promises 27-minute rides between Union Station and Palmdale.And California voters next year could be asked to vote on a bond measure that would provide about $10 billion to build a statewide high-speed rail system.Still, the plan faces significant challenges.“I think it’s a ridiculous boondoggle,” said Robert Poole, director of transportation studies at the Reason Foundation in Los Angeles. SACRAMENTO – Supporters of a $40 billion high-speed rail line in California are revitalizing their decadelong battle for a 700-mile route that could help relieve the state’s jammed freeways. The plan for the transit corridor has languished for years, unable to overcome weak political support and strong criticism of its hefty price tag.But last week’s record-breaking run by a French TGV train that hit 357 mph has revived interest in the route that could whisk passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in under three hours.“I think this is the future for California,” said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, one of several state lawmakers who traveled to France to witness the speed record.