High-speed critic: Kopp takes issue with California rail plan

  • This image provided by the California High Speed Rail Authority shows an artist's rendering of a high-speed train station. California's ambitious bullet train project is picking up momentum thanks to the $8 billion set aside for high-speed rail development in the economic stimulus package signed into law this week. The state is aggressively going after federal funding for the 800-mile high-speed rail system as it vies with a dozen designated high-speed rail corridors across the nation for a share of the money. (AP Photo/California High Speed Rail Authority) ** NO SALES **

There's a short piece of Bay Area freeway, Interstate 380, named for Quentin Kopp, which is ironic considering that he's beaten the drum for public transit — specifically bullet trains — for years. But then again, he's always been a contrarian, as a Superior Court judge, a San Francisco supervisor and a state senator. He also headed the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The man nicknamed the "Great Dissenter" is dissenting now over the course of his beloved bullet train, created on paper in 2008 with a bond measure, Proposition 1A. Its prospects have been slowed considerably by lawsuits, the latest from the state itself, a preemptive bring-it-on legal action called High-Speed Rail Authority vs. All Persons Interested. Kopp is among the very interested, and the not very happy.

Q: Oscar Wilde said that each man kills the thing he loves. You love high-speed rail. Why do you want to kill it now?

A: I want to kill this iteration of it because it betrays the representations to the voters in November 2008.

Q: Most epiphanies in France have to do with wine or cheese. Yours had to do with high-speed rail, in 1982.

A: My son had been on an exchange program. He said, "There's this new train from Lyon to Paris," and I said, "Let's try it." That was the epiphany.

Q: Do you still think California needs a bullet train?

A: Yes. It will attract riders otherwise circumscribed by vehicular congestion and the inability of airports to host increasing numbers of flights. High-speed rail fares can and will beat airplane fares.

Q: Will California's ever get built?

A: The Kings County lawsuit (alleging that parts of the current plan violate Proposition 1A's provisions) should stop the spending of any money on the violative parts of the plan and force the High-Speed Rail Authority to restore the 2008 plan.

Q: There are objections all along the route, some from areas because they're included, some because they're not.

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