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Bay Area High Speed Rail Plan Halted After Gov. Newsom's Address

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- Governor Gavin Newsom's State of the State announcement that high speed rail may be limited to the central valley and won't be coming to Silicon Valley and the Bay Area anytime soon surprised rail commuters in San Jose.

"I think it's idiotic. And I think that our country is going backwards," said Janko Kostoski, who was catching a train at Diridon Station in San Jose.

Another commuter, who sometimes uses Uber to get from Fresno to San Jose, was also disappointed.

"They have to make it easier for us. Transportation is number one, like in other countries. Like in Japan and China, and it's all about commuting," said Abir Alhuniti. She said she is forced to commute into the city from far away due to the high cost of living in Silicon Valley.

High speed rail was over budget and years behind schedule. But transportation experts say those problems could have been solved without putting the brakes on.

"Shock is a great word to describe how I feel. And a bit dismayed," said Dr. Karen Philbrick, Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose.

"High Speed Rail was a real solution that could move people reliably, safely and economically. And the fact that the bread basket of our nation, in the central valley region, will not be connected to the hub of Silicon Valley is deeply disturbing," she said.

But the man for whom the Diridon Station was named is still optimistic.

"I think what the Governor is saying is that we have to find a way to complete the studies and come up with 17 billion dollars for the connection between the Central Valley and Silicon Valley," said Rod Diridon, a former Santa Clara County Supervisor who advocated for light rail in San Jose in the 1980's.

Diridon says he's spoken to Newsom personally and thinks this isn't the end of the line.

"I think he was staking out his own turf. I think the project will go ahead but it will be his project," Diridon said.

Under Newsom's plan, high speed rail will only serve cities in the Central Valley, from Merced to Bakersfield.

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