Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 18
State Senate approves funding for high-speed train
BY AMY ASMAN
California’s high-speed bullet train appears to be back on track—for now—after the state Senate approved on July 7 the sale of state bonds to build the first portion of the rail line in the Central Valley.
After being besieged by an intense lobby campaign led by Gov. Jerry Brown, legislators voted 21 to 16 to allow the state to start selling billions of dollars’ worth of bonds, including $2.6 billion for the high-speed rail project. The vote will also enable the state to collect approximately $3.2 billion in federal funding.
“In 2008, California voters decided to create jobs and modernize our state’s rail transportation system with a major investment in high-speed rail and key local projects in Northern and Southern California. The Legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again,” Brown said in a prepared statement.
Once completed, the rail would create a transportation artery between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The first segment of the line will run from Madera to Bakersfield. The final cost of the project is estimated to be $68 billion.
The vote split straight across party lines, with no Republican senators in favor of the bill.
Sen. Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) spoke out against the decision in a statement: “In 2008, Californians were sold a pig and a poke. We were told that the project would cost $33 billion, split up between the state, federal government, and the private sector. Since that time projected ridership has fallen, and federal dollars have dried up.
“It’s unfortunate that the majority would rather spend billions of dollars that we don’t have for a train to nowhere than keep schools open and harmless from budget cuts. We cannot afford this current project and across the state, public opinion polls have clearly shown that the Californians no longer want it,” Harman added.
To sway Democrats’ votes, party leaders included in the bill more state funding for the improvement of existing rails, including $1.9 billion in bonds for regional rail improvements.
In his own public statement, Dan Richard, chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, called the decision “the result of hard work and collaborative effort.”
He thanked Brown and house leadership for passing the measure, and said, “Not only will California be the first state in the nation to build a high-speed rail system to connect our urban centers, we will also modernize and improve rail systems at the local and regional level. This plan will improve mobility for commuters and travelers alike, reduce emissions, and put thousands of people to work while enhancing our economic competitiveness.”
However, Republicans are worried the rail will only sink the state further into debt.
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