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California Lawmakers Approve High Speed Rail

California’s Senate has voted to pass more than $4.5 billion in bonds to begin constructing the nation’s first high-speed rail system. The state assembly approved initial funding for the project Thursday but it was a much tougher fight in the Senate. All Republicans present opposed the project as did a few Democratic senators.

Senator Joe Simitian, a Democrat from Palo Alto, called the high speed rail plan an updated Amtrak in the Central Valley, commenting that “all of our federal money and a quarter or more of our state money for 130 miles of not high speed rail and oh by the way it’s in a low ridership area.”

The federal government has pledged to kick in another three-point-three billion to the project if construction starts this year in the Central Valley. Democratic leaders recently added included more funding to improve regional rail systems in an effort to entice support.

The bill allocates another $1.9 billion in bonds for regional rail improvements in Northern and Southern California. SB1029 allows the state to begin selling $2.6 billion in voter-approved bonds for 130 miles of track from Madera to Bakersfield. The federal government has agreed to match $3.2 billion.

Republicans oppose the project and some Democratic senators remain skeptical. In recent days, Democratic leaders included more funding to improve existing rail systems in an effort to entice support.

The bill allocates another $1.9 billion in bonds for regional rail improvements in Northern and Southern California.

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