High-Speed Rail's First Leg: Bakersfield-Merced

VISALIA, Calif. -- Officials of the California High-Speed Rail Authority say a flat, straight stretch through the San Joaquin Valley connecting Merced and Bakersfield will likely be the first completed.

Regional Manager Thomas Tracy told the Visalia City Council on Monday that the 800-mile project will be built in eight phases. The first segment, due by 2015, would stretch from Bakersfield to Merced on an initial run from San Diego to Sacramento.

At its full 220 mph speed, the normally three-hour car trip from Merced to Bakersfield would take 45 minutes.

California voters approved $10 billion in bond financing for the project, and $8 billion more is in the federal stimulus bill.

The train eventually would travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours, 40 minutes.

The authority was established in 1996, and is "responsible for planning, constructing and operating a high-speed train system serving California's major metropolitan areas," according to the authority's website.

"The Authority has a nine-member policy board (five appointed by the governor, two appointed by the Senate Rules Committee, and two by the speaker of the Assembly) and a small core staff. All environmental, planning and engineering work is performed by private firms under contract with the Authority," according to the site.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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