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Poll: Opinions sour on high-speed rail

Republican pollster finds close to two thirds of California voters would vote to halt project

Nearly two thirds of Californians now oppose the state's high-speed rail project -- and the more they know about it, the less they like it, according to a new poll.

These were the findings from Probolsky Research, LLC, a Republican polling firm based in Irvine. The poll asked respondents to choose three spending priorities for the State of California. While the overwhelming majority chose education, public safety and health/social services (in that order), high-speed rail finished dead last with only 11.2 percent of respondents listing it as a priority.

Perhaps even more dramatically, 62 percent of those polled said they would vote to stop the high-speed rail project, while 31.1 percent said they would vote to keep it around (6.5 percent were either unsure or refused to answer). Close to two thirds said they are unlikely to ever ride the train from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The poll results should come as no surprise to residents of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, where feelings about high-speed rail have been turning increasingly sour over the past three years. The Palo Alto City Council, which initially endorsed Proposition 1A (the successful 2008 ballot measure that earmarked $9.95 billion in state funds for high-speed rail and rail-related transportation improvements), has grown highly critical of the project and adopted an official position of "no confidence" in the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency charged with building the new rail line. Residents and city officials have been particularly angry about the rail authority's design plans (some of which involved elevated tracks), its business plan and its ridership projections.

The new poll by Probolsky also found that the more residents know about the project, the more they are likely to oppose it. Of those who said they were "very familiar with high-speed rail," 59.5 percent said they would halt it (compared to the 45.3 percent among those who had never heard about the project before getting the call).

"Opposition to the project doesn't appear born of ignorance of California's high-speed rail endeavor," the poll stated. "The more voters know about high-speed rail, the more they are likely to vote to stop the project."

Furthermore, those who don't like the project are fairly intense in their opposition. While 61.3 percent of those who support high-speed rail said they "definitely" support it, the proportion of opponents who said they would "definitely" vote to halt the project is 81.4 percent (16.5 percent said they would "probably" vote to halt it).

The firm surveyed 750 California voters over the phone between Aug. 10 and Aug. 15.

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