It seemed to signal a sharp change in direction for the Republican governor, who in January proposed a 2007-08 state budget that would leave the California High-Speed Rail Authority on life support. Schwarzenegger also asked lawmakers to remove a $9.9 billion high-speed and conventional rail bond measure from the November 2008 ballot. The proposal already has been held up twice with Schwarzenegger’s support. Sale of the bonds would help pay for a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. It would be part of a $40 billion, 700-mile system the authority hopes the state will build, linking Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno with trains running at top speeds of more than 200 mph. Supporters say the project would provide a much-need alternative to crowded freeways and airports as the state grows by an estimated 17 million residents over the next 50 years. A Schwarzenegger spokeswoman, Sabrina Lockhart, said the governor “has always believed that high-speed rail has benefits. But his concern is asking taxpayers to mortgage SACRAMENTO – California’s Hummer-driving, motorcycle-riding governor may be getting on board the state’s ambitious high-speed rail project after years of coolness toward the program. In a recent op-ed column in The Fresno Bee, Gov. Schwarzenegger extolled the virtues of bullet trains, saying they would help relieve freeway congestion, improve air quality and create greater mobility. “A network of high-speed rail lines connecting cities throughout California would be a tremendous benefit to our state,” the governor wrote. The column appeared three days after an editorial criticized the Republican governor’s “curious coolness” toward rail transit and the high-speed rail project, particularly after the collapse of an Oakland freeway overpass demonstrated the vulnerability of the state’s reliance on highways. $10 billion without identifying where the rest of the estimated $30 billion cost will come from.” In the editorial, Schwarzenegger complained that the state’s high-speed rail board had not completed a “comprehensive and credible plan for financing the system so we can get construction under way.” State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, a leading legislative supporter of high-speed rail, suggested the governor’s column was “an absolute reversal” brought on by criticism, particularly from Central Valley officials, about the governor’s lack of support for the rail project. “It’s a tremendous turn of events, obviously,” Florez said. Mehdi Morshed, the rail board’s executive director, said the governor’s public expression of support for high-speed rail was “a big benefit for the project.” A preliminary report prepared by a team of high-speed rail board consultants suggests the system could be funded through a combination of state, federal and local government support and private investment, with as much as 30 percent of the money coming from private sources. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!