Orange Votes Against High-Speed Rail

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The city of Orange this week voted to oppose California’s proposed $43 billion high-speed-rail system, particularly its ability to take property through eminent domain.

Councilman Jon Dumitru, who proposed the resolution that was adopted unanimously, said in a telephone interview today that he was concerned eminent domain would be used to take land south of Katella Avenue for use as a turn-around or maintenance area.

The 400-mile Anaheim to San Francisco high-speed-rail line is scheduled to have its Orange County terminus at a new station in Anaheim, right across the Santa Ana River from Orange.

“I don’t have a problem with mass transit,” said Dumitru. But in addition to the eminent domain issues, he said he worried that taxpayers will be saddled with the bulk of the costs for operation as well as construction, if rail authority financial projections don’t pan out. “I’m worried from a taxpayer perspective.”

The resolution said, in part, “A viable finance plan to fund the project construction does not currently exist and current plans lay out an unrealistic scenario for paying for the system with a combination of state, federal, local and private funds.”

Dumitru also listed the criticisms leveled at the project in recent months including unreliable ridership estimates and a highly critical state audit.

And he said he’s concerned that plans for the project seem ambiguous. “One week it’s one thing, the next week it’s another,” he said of announcements about what the California High-Speed Rail Authority plans to do. “They need to get their plan together.”

In any case, he said Southern California has MetroLink for commuters, Amtrak for longer trips and no need for high speed rail.

As long as it doesn’t use eminent domain to obtain land, Dumitru said, “I don’t have a problem if it’s put in places where it’s useful and needed. The Central Valley, I could buy off on that.”

Mayor Carolyn Cavecche, who also serves on the Orange County Transportation Authority, voted for the resolution but said it’s because she’s worried about the state’s ability to sell bonds, given the poor state of the economy and California’s serious financial problems.

Ultimately, she said, she’d like to see rail expanded from Anaheim to Ontario Airport, but in terms of the state’s finances and high-speed rail, “I have grave concerns right now.”

Following the vote, High-Speed Rail Authority Deputy Executive Director Jeff Barker issued a statement: “It is disappointing that the elected officials in the city of Orange have declined the opportunity to help shape this historic project and have declined to represent residents of their city — especially at this early stage in our development when input and constructive feedback is so vital.”

The statement said rail officials “will continue to reach out to the residents of Orange and listen to their ideas about the high-speed rail project because we know we cannot develop the best train system possible without their feedback.”



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