Even as they raised the estimated cost of high-speed rail in California to almost $100 billion over 20 years, the project's organizers on Tuesday were staging a comeback bid.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority, which came under criticism in the Legislature and appeared for months to be on the brink of collapse, cast the new cost estimate as a measure of its credibility.
The resulting cost estimate is so high, officials hope, that critics will no longer accuse the authority of issuing rosy estimates. The authority also changed part of its construction plan to placate opponents in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.
"This plan represents a new day, a new time and a new beginning," Tom Umberg, chairman of the rail authority board, told reporters at the California State Railroad Museum.
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Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who supports the high-speed rail project, said in a statement Tuesday: "One of the strengths of this business plan is the clear path it lays between beginning construction in the Central Valley next year and achieving a full high-speed rail system that spans the state, expanding our transportation options in a way that's safe, fast, clean and affordable."
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, countered in a statement of his own that the business plan "should convince even the most loyal high-speed rail advocate to re-examine the project," which he described as "financially irresponsible and reckless."