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Opposition Rises As Calif. High-speed Rail Begins

"It's not like it's just a restaurant that I've owned for a couple of years and now I can just go replace it. It's something that I've put the last 45 years of my life into," the 66-year-old says.

His is just one of hundreds of properties the state needs to buy for the rail project or seize through eminent domain if they cannot reach a deal. Many owners are resentful after years of what they say have been confusing messages and misleading information. Raisin farmer Ray Moles may lose a fraction of his farmland, but he says that is not why he opposes the train.

"I think water is more important than rail. Bring some water to the valley, put some people to work, and you'll have candidates to ride on the rail," Moles says after finishing lunch at the Cosmopolitan. "They're putting the cart before the horse. They want to put the rail in this summer, but they don't want to do the water for 20 years."

Rail officials acknowledge that the agency hasn't always communicated with those most affected by the project, and part of their work in the Central Valley is strictly public relations.

"Frankly, it set us back, because we, in effect, created questions and even opposition by just failing to give people answers," says Jeff Morales, the authority's chief executive officer since 2012.

For supporters, high-speed rail is the solution to California's future transportation needs, when the state's already jammed, rutted highways and busy airports won't be enough for a population expected to hit 46 million by 2035.

It will create hundreds of good-paying jobs for several years as officials tear down buildings, draw engineering plans, survey wildlife and, eventually, lay track. It will also help move the Central Valley beyond the dominant low-wage agriculture sector, Morales says.

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