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Congress cuts future funding for California's bullet train

November 17, 2011 |  7:34 pm

The U.S. Senate approved a package of legislation Thursday night that eliminates future funding for high-speed rail projects, including the California bullet train.

The vote, coming after a similar vote in the House of Representatives, leaves the future of the ambitious state project to create a new rail system from Southern California to the Bay Area uncertain. The state has less than 15% of the funds needed for the $98.5-billion project.

Gov. Jerry Brown said last week that he will launch the project next year despite the prospect of a federal funding cutoff, using only the money the state has in hand. The existing funds include $3.3 billion from prior federal grants and as much as $9 billion in state bond funds that were approved by voters in 2008.

But the vote Thursday appears to signal that unless the political makeup of Congress changes in coming elections, California may not get any additional funds for the project.

President Obama asked Congress earlier this year to begin a $50-billion national high-speed rail system, but the request quickly met opposition in the Republican-controlled House. The House Appropriations Committee ignored the request for $8 billion in 2012 and instead granted zero funds. Even the Democratic Senate cut the request to just $100 million. A conference committee of the chambers agreed to zero the funding earlier this week, a decision approved by the House on Tuesday.

The 70-30 Senate vote Thursday included a half-dozen appropriations measures for fiscal 2012.

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--Ralph Vartabedian

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