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California goes after all of Florida's high-speed rail money

California high-speed rail officials voted Wednesday to seek an additional $2.43 billion in federal construction funds recently relinquished by Florida’s new Republican governor.

The money would permit the state to extend an initial, Central Valley leg of the proposed 800-mile system.  

The chances of getting the entire Florida allocation are doubtful, but California has received some of the largest federal grants in the nation under the Obama administration’s push to develop a bullet train network similar to those in Europe and the Far East.

Even getting a majority of the cash, coupled with state match funds, would allow the California High-Speed Rail Authority to extend the starter track from Merced to Bakersfield, officials said. Work already is slated to begin next year on a $5.5- billion section of rail, viaducts and stations from Fresno to the outskirts of Bakersfield.

California’s project was approved by voters in 2008. But it has come under harsh criticism from auditors and state watchdogs for lack of a clear business model or concrete plans to finance the entire Los Angeles-to-San Francisco portion of the system, which is supposed to be finished in a decade. Some state officials are anxious about starting such a massive project without knowing if or how it will be completed.  

But project promoters have grown increasingly upbeat as the groundbreaking draws closer. “Every mile of track laid in the Central Valley represents another step toward realizing a statewide system to connect north and south, which will bring private investment, job creation and economic strength to California,” authority board Chairman Curt Pringle said after his panel’s unanimous vote to apply for the Florida funds.

Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida have returned high-speed rail funds in recent months, in part because new Republican governors say the projects could expose their taxpayers to high costs in the future. As a result, California has the nation’s only true high-speed train project in advanced stages of planning still angling for federal dollars. Trains would travel up to 220 miles per hour in open areas, planners say.

Most of the funds now being allocated were approved when President Obama’s Democratic Party allies controlled both houses of Congress. Future federal funding required to finish California’s system will be harder to come by. 

Republicans have a majority in the House and key leaders have vowed to slash bullet-train support to help reduce the federal deficit. 


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-- Rich Connell

Comments () | Archives (15)

I wish they could put this money towards the subway to the sea plan. That way maybe they could finish it before all of us are dead from old age.

Fresno? Bakersfield? Merced? How about a high speed rail line from San Francisco to San Diego! 5.5 billion dollars out to cover it!!!

Would love to see high speed rail from LA to Las Vegas and San Diego.

There loss, our gain. Floridians must be idiots.

Let's go for it. Howver long it takes, sensible, progressive leadership will come to the Congress again, and when it does, California will be able to complete work on this system. Just wish we had that Anaheim to Vegas route open already.

220 miles per hour... wow! Not sure if that's a plus or a minus!

I don't see how a high speed train wouldn't be a highly likely and easy target by terrorists.

Scum ball people in CA. This boondoggle money belongs to taxpayers. The country is broke and is printing money to prop up T bills. If CA cannot pay for high speed rail they should not get it. People in Maine should not have to pay for it.

CA Treasurer Bill Lockyer, the California politician responsible for selling these CAHSR bonds, said on March 14, 2011 to an LA news reporter that no one is interested in buying CA HSR bonds because the CAHSR is more interested in issuing bad PR, rather than coming up with a sound business plan. Until there is a sound business plan, or even a half-baked one, then no one will invest in this stinker of a project. Interviewer asks: “so are investors saying we’re interested, but it doesn’t look like you guys [CAHSR Authority] know what you’re doing” & Lockyer responds: “that’s what they’re saying”; Interviewer: “what do you think?” & Lockyer responds: “well, I think the same thing.” High faluting ideas are one thing, wasting your nest egg investing in a stinker is quite another - see interview here:

Also, here's are more useful way to save $1 trillion about to be wasted on national High Speed Trains - it's called a fast bus, or "high speed bus."
Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus ...

If Florida doesn't waste billions of dollars that we don't have building a high speed boondoggle to the 19th century, California will waste it for them!

This is a great opportunity to finish the central spine of our high-speed rail project and then concentrate on getting into Los Angeles and San Francisco and opening day.. pay NO attention to the negative naysayers and boo birds at online newspapers around the country about high-speed rail.. It will be an outstanding economic engine for our nation and state and worth every penny of investment instead of spending $1 billion a day on a Middle East war

Davide F posted:

"Also, here's are more useful way to save $1 trillion about to be wasted on national High Speed Trains - it's called a fast bus, or 'high speed bus.'"

High speed bus (aka bus rapid transit) is an important part of the transportation mix, and many lines are in planning or construction throughout California. It's ideal for intra-city or regional transit. However, it won't get you from LA to San Francisco. For that you need high-speed rail.

If you reside in either of those cities and compute the door-to-door time from home to your final destination, the train will be about a dead heat with air travel once you take parking, luggage, TSA, taxiing, etc. into account. Now: the train will go city center to city center; has AC power for whatever gizmos you have; doesn't pack you in like a sardine; has broadband capability all the way; and doesn't make you take your shoes off, or return your seatback to the full upright and locked position.

Or you can forget all that and take the plane. Have fun.

It is from SF to San Diego. But they have to start somewhere. And federal government mandates that it start in central California.

We could start in SF or LA, but we'd lose billions of dollars of fed money. This is what's conveniently not mentioned by critics.

When someone gives you billions of dollars to do a project voters already approved, you'd be stupid to not take it.

"High-Speed Rail Authority to extend the starter track from Merced to Bakersfield,"

Unless I am "missing" something, why on earth would there be a high speed rail line out in the boondocks? High Speed needs to connect the largest metropolitan cities FIRST! San Diego to LA to San Francisco, NOT start in the middle of the State! There simply cannot be enough ridership from Merced to Bakersfield to support the cost!

Start from the North and work South, or visa versa, but do not start in the middle! This simply is not 'rocket science'. Even staring at either end and working toward the middle is so much easier to understand. But starting in the middle is simply not smart!

Who is in charge of THIS boondoggle? Must be some State or Federal politicians

It frightens me how much misinformation and lack of critical thinking exists among some of the people commenting.

david t is correct that the project was mandated to start in central California for the federal funding:
In addition, starting construction in central California is sensible for other reasons, such as being politically easiest to build in sparsely populated areas, the environmental studies are less complex, and the central "spine" -needs- to be built for the system anyway.

Regarding the high-speed bus comments (Davide F and Bill)...it scares me to believe that the commenters don't know that The Onion is satirical. Did they even bother to watch the high-speed bus animation video and realize how ridiculous the high-speed bus animation was?


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