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President Obama’s $53 billion pledge to high speed rail could fund large part of California’s project

February 9, 2011

From the San Jose Mercury News – The White House on Tuesday announced plans to spend $53 billion over the next six years to build high-speed railroads, bringing California’s massive bullet train project closer to reality.

But congressional Republicans, who control the House and have vowed to slash spending, stand as a formidable opponent to the funding proposal outlined by Vice President Joe Biden. It’s also unclear where most of the federal funds would come from.

But should the plan — one of President Barack Obama‘s signature job-creation initiatives — go through, California would be in line for the biggest chunk of funding. That money would fuel the state’s $43 billion bullet train project — its biggest public works undertaking in a generation, and one that has been called both California’s most promising and most wasteful endeavor.

Since California has the nation’s largest and most advanced project, with construction to start next year in the Central Valley, the state has over the past few years received about 30 percent of federal bullet train grants.

If that formula holds, the state would get about $16 billion from the U.S. government over the next six years under Obama’s pledge. That amount is more than Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles spend on their budgets and construction projects in a year — combined.

Already armed with $9 billion in state bonds and about $3.6 billion from the federal government, the influx of the new federal grants could put California about two-thirds of the way toward funding the entire project. The state hopes to leverage the public funding to bankroll the rest of the project through the private sector and local governments, in time to start speeding bullet trains between the Bay Area and Southern California by 2020.

“This is the kind of bold investment in the future of our nation’s infrastructure that will get the attention of the private sector and make high-speed travel a reality in the United States,” Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said in a statement.

And right on cue, the rail authority late Tuesday scheduled an announcement for…to read the rest of this story, please click here.

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