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December 31, 2010 > New funds extend high speed rail construction

New funds extend high speed rail construction

Submitted By Rachel Wall

Moving quickly to take advantage of $616M in new federal funding, the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board will commit state matching funds to extend construction of the initial Central Valley backbone of the state-wide system south to Bakersfield.

The new federal funds, which were re-distributed from other states that returned federal high-speed rail support, will now be coupled with state matching dollars, bringing the total available funds to begin construction to $5.5 billion. This new total will allow engineers to significantly extend initial construction, potentially building as many as 120 miles of the project's 520-mile first phase, and incorporate the Valley's largest urban centers - Bakersfield and Fresno.

"This a huge step forward for high-speed rail in California. Thanks to the federal government's demonstrated faith in our system and the foresight of California voters, the first stretch of track of this revolutionary system will now reach two major population centers. We are well on our way to breaking ground on this historic venture. Not only will productivity be enhanced, congestion and pollution reduced and thousands of jobs be created, California's high-speed rail will be the standard by which every other project in the US is measured," remarked Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Ohio's loss is our gain. When other states shrunk from the challenge of high-speed rail, California's firm commitment to this project paid off," said Tom Umberg, Vice Chairman of the Authority's Board of Directors. "This is the right place to start and the right way to start. Working from the midpoint of the system gives us flexibility to keep building north and south and builds the backbone fundamental to a true high-speed rail system."

Project engineers also considered extending construction north toward Merced but recommended against it until a final alignment is chosen. With several alternatives for tracks still being studied for environmental impacts, a commitment at this stage would risk not meeting requirements for this round of federal funding. However, the Authority is working with federal officials to jump-start designing and planning for high-speed rail stations across the entire state - including Merced, Bakersfield, Gilroy, San Jose and Los Angeles.

In early December 2010, the Authority selected a 65-mile stretch through the Central Valley to begin construction of California's high-speed rail line, which will eventually connect the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and beyond.

"The California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley has consistently supported the construction of high-speed rail from Bakersfield to Merced. The additional funding provided by the federal government will extend the initial track construction to Bakersfield and allow for station designs in Merced and Bakersfield, which will bring this effort closer to reality. Considering the origin of this funding, it might be appropriate to name those stations in honor of their donors: Wisconsin and Ohio," remarked Mike Dozier, executive director of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley.

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