Last Updated:November 20 @ 08:40 pm

A nearly bankrupt state plays with trains

By Judy Lin

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California lawmakers gave the green light to start building the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line, a multibillion dollar project that will eventually link Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The move marked major political victories for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration. Both have promoted bullet trains as job generators and clean transportation alternatives.

In a narrow 21-16 party-line vote that involved intense lobbying by the governor, legislative leaders and labor groups, the state Senate approved the measure marking the launch of California's ambitious bullet train, which has spent years in the planning stages.

"The Legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again," Brown said.

Brown pushed for the massive infrastructure project to accommodate expected growth in the nation's most populous state, which now has 37 million people. State and federal officials also said high-speed rail would create jobs.

"No economy can grow faster than its transportation network allows," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "With highways between California cities congested and airspace at a premium, Californians desperately need an alternative."

The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile stretch of the high-speed rail line in the agriculturally rich Central Valley. That allows the state to draw another $3.2 billion in federal funding.

The first segment of the line will run from Madera to Bakersfield.

Senate Republicans blasted the decision, citing the state's ongoing budget problems. They said project would push California over a fiscal cliff. No GOP senators voted for the bill Friday.

The final cost of the completed project from Los Angeles to San Francisco is projected to be $68 billion.

"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," Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, said in a statement.

Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which is managing the project, said California would have lost billions of dollars in federal aid if the Senate fails to pass the bill before adjourning Friday for a monthlong recess.

California entered a contract that called for the federal government to provide money for building the Central Valley segment if the state also put up its share, he 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," Richard said Friday.

California was able to secure more federal aid than expected after Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin turned down money.

Before Friday's vote, at least half a dozen Democrats in the 40-member Senate remained opposed, skeptical or uncommitted. Some were concerned about how the vote would impact their political futures, while others were wary about financing and management of the massive project.

In recent days, Democratic leaders included more state funding to improve existing rail systems in an effort to entice support for the bullet train.

The bill authorizes the state to sell nearly half of a $10 billion high-speed rail bond that voters approved four years ago under Proposition 1A. In addition to financing the first segment of high-speed rail, it allocates a total of $1.9 billion in bonds for regional rail improvements in Northern and Southern California.

The upgrades include electrifying Caltrain, a San Jose-San Francisco commuter line, and improving Metrolink commuter lines in Southern California.

One dissenter, Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said public support had waned for the project, and there were too many questions about financing to complete it.

"Is there additional commitment of federal funds? There is not. Is there additional commitment of private funding? There is not. Is there a dedicated funding source that we can look to in the coming years? There is not," Simitian said.

The Bay Area Council, a group of business leaders from the San Francisco Bay and Silicon Valley areas, cheered the vote.

The bill, which already passed the state Assembly, heads to Brown for his signature.

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14 Comments

  1. middlegroundComment by middleground
    July 7, 2012 @ 10:29 am

    A fiscally responsible federal government might want to help build a HSR between east-coast population centers as was done in Japan, but San Fransisco to LA seems economically absurd. Well perhaps we can call this new line “Moonbeam Rail”.

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  2. Pingback: California - A nearly bankrupt state plays with trains - ALIPAC

  3. copakemanComment by copakeman
    July 7, 2012 @ 11:44 am

    in 1972 i moved from new jersey to upstate new york. our wonderful and insiteful gov. at that time, mario cuomo announced he will build 100+ mph trains from albany ny to manhattan. preaching you will be able to travel from albany to manhattan in 90 minutes or less. it is now the year 2012 (that’s 50 years), i am still wainting for the 100+ mph trains to be built.

    how long does it take the government to build a 100+ mph train ?
    how long will it take california to build one ?
    is infinity still a word ?

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    • godsgirlComment by godsgirl
      July 7, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

      Infinity is still a word, as is entropy.

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    • diksumComment by diksum
      July 8, 2012 @ 6:03 am

      “it is now the year 2012 (that’s 50 years)”

      You’re obviously the product of a public school education. I think we’re talking about 40 years.

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  4. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    July 7, 2012 @ 11:49 am

    “The Legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again,” Brown said.”

    “Brown pushed for the massive infrastructure project to accommodate expected growth in the nation’s most populous state, which now has 37 million people. State and federal officials also said high-speed rail would create jobs.”

    Who will this put back to work? Californians? Or will the work be contracted out to Chinese firms as been done to some of our bridge replacement projects that are rebuilding our infrastructure?

    “Expected growth in the nation’s most populous state”? California is now experiencing a net loss in population, and the tax increases that will be required to fund this boondoggle, will accelerate that population loss.

    The question is this: Have the Democrats in California gone collectively insane, or do they have Friends that this money will be used to pay back, or is it possibly both answers are corrected?

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    • CarmineComment by Carmine
      July 8, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

      I vote for both answers being correct.

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  5. capricorn1Comment by capricorn1
    July 7, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

    you deserve what you are getting california.you have voted into offices the redistributors of wealth and power,now they run roughshod over the citizens with no remorse or care.
    and america i speak to you know “obama has got to be defeated in november or the country will not be saveable”.

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  6. vComment by v
    July 7, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

    The only people thay will get jobs in CA are “ILLEGAL ALIENS”!
    What do you mean almost bankrupt CA has been in the negative for decades….the only thing keeping them going is the LEGAL US TAXPAYER DOLLARS from the rest of the US!
    CA is the biggest Welfare Who** in the US!

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  7. eagletalComment by eagletal
    July 7, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

    A train that goes from Bakersfield to Madera is useless. This is all agricultural land with little in between. At 130 miles, that’s a cost of approximately 523 million dollars a mile. How can they justify the cost? Also,trains like AmTrak and others are subsidized by our government. They can’t make it on their own. These idiots are unbelievable.

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  8. tomadsComment by tomads
    July 7, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

    It would be wise to use this absurd vote to identify the enemies of reason! This project exemplifies why California is collapsing into Greater Stockton.

    Identify the votes for and remove them from office through ridicule.

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    • jrp34Comment by jrp34
      July 7, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

      Tomads, You are right on the money! It’s a great idea. This proves, without a doubt, that liberalism is a mental disorder.

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  9. CharieComment by Charie
    July 7, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

    ***Democratic leaders included more state funding to improve existing rail systems in an effort to entice support for the bullet train.***

    OOooookaaayyy….. they’re going to sell high speed rail bonds to pay for this monster. Wow! Great!

    Now let’s figure it out. All government projects come in close to double what they were estimated. Why would anyone in their right minds agree to this and why are business leaders jumping around with great huzzahs for this pie-in-the-sky project? I’ve always heard California is the Land of the Lotus Eaters, but I’m thinkin’ there’s more than Lotus they’re eatin’. I’m thinkin’ a whole bunch of it goes up their collective noses.

    I’m sure they’ve thought about the maintenance and fuel for the trains and also how much fares will be.

    The reason Scott Walker turned down the fed money is because his administration actually figured out how much all those things would cost and the fare from Milwaukee to Madison costed out to over $60 one way and then you’d have to take some other form of transportation to actually get into the city of Madison. Who would pay $120 for a trip to and back from Madison?

    Plus, the fast train couldn’t go fast and would travel about the same speed as a car. I have a hunch that’s why the other states turned down the fed money, too.

    The Democrat mayor of Milwaukee is pushing his “streetcar” on real rails and run for a mile and a half through downtown Milwaukee as his contribution to make jobs. How do these guys figure they’re making jobs, except while the railroads are being built? After that it’s only adding more jobs to the public sector which draws more money from the taxpayers.

    Just the amount of land that will have to be bought and underground cables, pipes, etc. that will have to be dug out and moved boggles the mind.

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  10. cxComment by genesal
    July 7, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

    Why not make it a one way high speed train to Mexico?

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  11. dc3533Comment by dc3533
    July 8, 2012 @ 12:00 am

    You can’t build anything in California without running into environmental regulations and endangered species. Guess what? All of those pesky regulations have been set aside for this project. Color me surprised.

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  12. Pingback: Johnny Cirucci’s Information Preparation of the Battlefield (“IPB”): Freedom News for Saturday, 07 July 2012 | Johnny Cirucci.com

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