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Bullet train coming to California ballots

Governor Schwarzenegger is supportive, but a $16 billion state deficit may inspire voters to say 'no' in November.

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Like thousands of other college students in California, Jessica Jardine treks regularly from her home in Los Gatos in the north to university life in Los Angeles, in southern California. It's a five- to six-hour drive one way nearly every six weeks or a Southwest Airlines commute – which takes only an hour in the sky, but requires plenty of time getting to and from the airports.

In November, Ms. Jardine will be able to vote on a 220-m.p.h. bullet train, which would zip serenely from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2.5 hours.

"I would love to take a train, relax, use the time reading, talking on the phone, doing homework," says the University of Southern California graduate student.

If Californians approve the $10 billion bond proposal – enough to provide initial financing for the $42 billion system that could link north and south through the agricultural Central Valley –they will likely see the zooming trains in about a decade.

The price tag may sound ominous in shaky financial times. But the project could turn out to be half the cost of alternatives, proponents say. They calculate that the additional 13.5 million people expected to reside in California within 20 years will result in 90 million to 115 million more intercity or region-to-region trips. Supporting the travelers would require at least $82 billion in upgrades, including 2,970 additional miles of freeway lanes, 90 new airport gates, and five new runways.

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