California’s Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has dropped his support for the state’s controversial high-speed rail project, defying Governor Jerry Brown, who has made high-speed rail one of his central priorities. Echoing arguments made by conservatives, Newsom–who once supported the high-speed rail project–now says that California should use the money for more pressing infrastructure needs, such as water storage.
Newsom first revealed his flip-flop on high-speed rail to a Seattle radio station last week, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I am not the only Democrat that feels this way. I am one of the few that just said it publicly,” Newsom is quoted as saying, adding that many other Democrats feel the same way but are afraid to defy Gov. Brown and President Barack Obama, who has also strongly supported high-speed rail development.
Polls now show that most Californians now oppose the high-speed rail project. The project was approved by voters in a 2008 referendum, but since then the cost estimates have soared while legal obstacles have proliferated and expectation of the train’s performance have become less optimistic. Entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk (of Tesla fame) are also proposing alternatives, such as the “hyperloop,” a super-fast vacuum-tube.