Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

High-Speed Rail In California Getting $2 Billion

Governor Schwarzenegger holds a press conference to announce California has been awarded more than $2.3 billion in Recovery Act funding.
Peter Grigsby
Governor Schwarzenegger holds a press conference to announce California has been awarded more than $2.3 billion in Recovery Act funding.

The most advanced planning and a willingness to help pay put California at the top when it came to securing federal funding for high-speed rail, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday.

In all, the state will get $2.25 billion for high-speed rail and another $100 million to improve existing rail systems, primarily Amtrak service in Southern California and the Capitol Corridor passenger service in Northern California.

"As is typical of California, they have been way ahead of the curve," LaHood said. "People have been working on and dreaming about high speed rail for more than a decade and they were willing to put some of their own tax dollars up to help fund it."

State officials said the money will move California much closer to its goal of constructing 800 miles of high-speed rail and will quickly create thousands of jobs.

The first phase of the state project will extend about 520 miles from San Francisco to Anaheim, with the goal of completion by 2020. Phase II would extend the system north to Sacramento and south to San Diego by 2026.

The majority of the federal funding to be announced Thursday will help finance the design and construction of four sections: Los Angeles to Anaheim, San Francisco to San Jose, Fresno to Bakersfield and Merced to Fresno.

California was widely expected to get a sizable share of the $8 billion that Congress set aside for high-speed rail as part of an economic stimulus legislation passed last year. It ended up getting more than any other state. Still, high-speed rail is hugely expensive and officials project that the first phase alone will cost nearly $43 billion.

State officials emphasized in their application that no other state was as far along as California in planning and development. Voters had already shown support for the rail service by approving nearly $10 billion in bond financing. Officials also promised to match any federal stimulus dollars awarded.

The state applied for $4.7 billion, but few expected California to get its entire request.

The trains would travel up to 220 miles per hour. Construction could begin as early as 2011.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimates that every $1 billion spent on high-speed rail creates 20,000 jobs, "and I can't overstate how important this is to a state with 12.4 percent unemployment and more than 2.25 million people out of work."