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LA-area Democratic lawmaker now opposes high-speed rail
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Democratic state Assemblywoman Patty Lopez of San Fernando said she is withdrawing support for California’s high-speed rail project amid opposition in her district and that five other legislative Democrats are also reconsidering their support, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Lopez told the newspaper she believes the $68 billion project would harm her mostly Latino, working-class district, which includes Pacoima, San Fernando and Sylmar. The rail route would cut through the district.
The first-term assemblywoman said the issue should go back to voters, who approved nearly $10 billion in bonds for the project and other rail improvements in 2008. She said the state should focus its spending on higher priorities such as water, jobs and homelessness.
“The money we are going to spend on it is crazy,” she said.
Lopez is not the first Democrat to oppose the project as cost estimates have grown and construction has lagged; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a candidate for governor in 2018, is the highest-profile Democratic opponent. Legislative approval for bullet train funding passed the state Senate by a single vote in 2012.
Lopez declined to name the other potential legislative opponents to the newspaper. Legislative support is not needed for the project as this stage, after lawmakers approved a dedicated funding source from pollution fees two years ago. The project to link Northern and Southern California by high-speed trains is among Gov. Jerry Brown’s top priorities.
Hundreds of protesters from Lopez’s district turned out at a rail board meeting in Los Angeles this summer, many opposed to a proposal to tunnel through the Angeles National Forest.
Lopez won a surprise upset last year when she unseated Democratic Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra.
She is expected to face Bocanegra again next year, along with Democratic San Fernando Mayor Joel Fajardo, a vocal critic of the high-speed rail project.
The proposed routes have drawn criticism throughout the state, first in the Central Valley and now in Southern California. Critics say construction there could harm wildlife sanctuaries, aquifers, horse ranches, schools, homes, businesses and movie lots.