"It is clear that this project is not the project that was presented to voters in 2008, and if it is to be pursued it needs to go back on the ballot," said Coupal, who co-authored the ballot arguments against the bonds in 2008.
The plan says that although taxpayers will foot the bill for much of the initial construction, private operators eventually will take over. Some profits from operating the system's initial sections will be used to pay for building new ones.
"The private sector has expressed a lot of interest already," Richard said. "But they needed to see the ridership and once they do, at that point they will be much more interested."
The initial phase will link the Central Valley city of Merced and the San Fernando Valley by 2022, expanding on what originally had been proposed as a 130-mile Madera-to-Bakersfield section that critics had lampooned as a "train to nowhere."
Brown ordered the board to rethink its previous proposal as polls showed a majority of voters wanted to reconsider the $9 billion in startup funding they authorized four years ago.
The latest plan will go before the full high-speed rail board on April 12 and, if approved, to the state Legislature. Brown is expected to ask lawmakers to appropriate $2.3 billion in rail bonds to begin construction of the first phase next year.
Associated Press writers Don Thompson in Sacramento and Gosia Wozniacka in Fresno also contributed to this report.
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