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Gov. Jerry Brown and fellow Golden State Democrats continue to champion high-speed rail, backed by environmentalists who see the system as an opportunity for the state to reduce its carbon footprint by cutting back on car trips.

Dan Richard, who heads the authority’s board, said the setbacks come with the territory and won’t derail the effort.

“Like all transformative projects, we understand that there will be many challenges that will be addressed as we go forward in building the nation’s first high-speed rail system,” Mr. Richard said in the Fresno Bee.

High-speed rail was sold to voters as a train that would travel at 220 miles per hour and deliver commuters between Los Angeles and San Francisco in as little as two hours and 40 minutes. In 1999, the project was reconfigured to include the Central Valley — the first section set for construction runs between Merced and Fresno — and a “blended system” that combines high-speed trains with existing Caltrain commuter trains from San Francisco to San Jose.

Mr. Flashman said that decision had more to do with the political clout of Central Valley lawmakers than the merits of the expansion. He argues that the state should scrap the Central Valley route and return to the original plan for a straight north-south shot along Interstate 5, which would save as much as $31 billion.

Nadia Naik, co-founder of the all-volunteer watchdog group Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, said all the twists and turns essentially are making residents motion-sick.

“Generally, people are just annoyed that we can’t get this done but other countries can,” Ms. Naik said.