Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown defends high-speed rail from GOP criticism

Republicans in both California and Congress have said the proposed railway is too expensive to built, and would not generate enough ridership to cover its expenses. The Obama administration has offered California more than $3 billion for a proposed high speed railway that would link San Francisco, Los Angeles and other major California cities, which is more than it has given any other state.

But cost estimates for the project have been recently increased from $33 billion to $98.5 billion.

Brown argued in his speech Wednesday that it was still worth it to built the train.

"If you believe that California will continue to grow, as I do, and that millions more people will be living in our state, this is a wise investment," Brown said. "Building new runways and expanding our airports and highways is the only alternative. That is not cheaper and will face even more political opposition.

"Those who believe that California is in decline will naturally shrink back from such a strenuous undertaking," he continued. "I understand that feeling but I don’t share it, because I know this state and the spirit of the people who choose to live here."

Brown said critics of projects such as the high-speed rail always exist "when something of this magnitude is proposed.

"During the 1930s, the Central Valley Water Project was called a 'fantastic dream' that 'will not work,'" he said. "The Master Plan for the Interstate Highway System in 1939 was derided as 'New Deal jitterbug economics.' In 1966, then Mayor Johnson of Berkeley called BART a 'billion-dollar potential fiasco.' Similarly, the Panama Canal was for years thought to be impractical and Benjamin Disraeli himself said of the Suez Canal: 'totally impossible to be carried out.' The critics were wrong then and they’re wrong now."

Republicans in Congress have vocally disagreed. The House-led GOP eliminated all funding for high-speed rail in this year's budget and the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's subcommittee on railroads was sharply critical during a hearing about the project last month.

"This thing is going to be a boondoggle," Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said during a debate that sometimes contentious. "California is not gonna be able to afford it."