California on Right Track to Build High Speed Rail - NBC Southern California

California on Right Track to Build High Speed Rail

California gets $2.25 billion in federal stimulus money



    California on Right Track to Build High Speed Rail
    California gets $2.25 Billion to Help Build High-Speed Rail from SoCal to SFO

    It's been a dream of rail enthusiasts for decades. A high-speed rail line between Southern California and San Francisco. Total time to travel the 500 or so miles, two hours and forty minutes.

    Planning started in 2008 when state voters approved a $10-billion high-speed rail bond.

    Then on Thursday federal officials announced that the state's share of the eight billion dollars allotted for high-speed rail projects would be $2.35 billion, the highest share of any state in the country.

    State officials say the money will move California much closer to its goal of constructing 800 miles of high-speed rail and will quickly create thousands of jobs.

    The first phase of the state project will extend about 500 miles, from San Francisco to Anaheim. The vast majority of the federal funding to be announced Thursday will help finance the design and construction of four sections: Los Angeles to Anaheim, San Francisco to San Jose, Fresno to Bakersfield and Merced to Fresno.

    The trains would travel up to 220 miles per hour. Construction could begin in late 2011, and the project would take a decade to complete.

    But the first phase alone is projected to cost nearly $43 billion, far short of the federal allocation, and the bond measure combined.

    How much more California could receive for high-speed rail is unclear because of Obama's proposal to freeze non-defense spending to trim the deficit, the L.A. Times reported. But an administration official, who requested anonymity when discussing White House plans, said that in addition to the stimulus funds, Obama remained committed to seeking $5 billion over five years for high-speed rail projects.

    About $100 million more in federal funding will come to California for other rail improvements, including new tracks and crossovers to increase train speeds between Los Angeles and San Diego, according to the L.A. Times.

    Still, state and federal officials are convinced that the money already allocated mean jobs for Southern California.

    "This announcement is a huge win for California,'' said Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. ``This federal investment will create tens of thousands of jobs across California, reduce air pollution and congestion on our roads, and help us build a cleaner, more efficient transportation system."

    Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimates that every $1 billion spent on high-speed rail creates 20,000 jobs, ``and I can't overstate how important this is to a state with 12.4 percent unemployment and more than 2.25 million people out of work.''