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When the California High-Speed Rail Authority released its $98.5 billion plan last week, officials said they were aware of congressional Republicans' distaste for the project.

So the authority didn't count on more federal aid for the project immediately, but it did bet it could find some over time.

Not necessarily because of anything the rail authority might do, but because President Barack Obama might win re-election, a rail official said earlier this week, and because of "continuing transportation challenges" over time.

"I think that after the 2012 election, if President Obama wins, then the 'Obama Rail' thing will, that that dynamic will be changed a bit," Tom Umberg, chairman of the rail authority, said Wednesday in an interview with The Bee's editorial board.

While suggesting criticism of the project in a post-election year might subside, Umberg also said "the other thing that exists is that the continuing transportation challenges are going to continue to add pressure" on politicians to act.

High-speed rail is expensive, the authority said in its business plan, but still cheaper than expanding airport and highway systems for California's growing population.

The rail authority plans to start construction in September. If it had two other wishes for the New Year, they might be these: that voters choose Obama on Election Day and get stuck in traffic on the way.


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