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California Legislature authorizes initial funding for high-speed rail

The State Senate today authorized initial funding for California’s high-speed rail system, the first bullet train in the United States. Although the state needs a series of regulatory approvals to begin construction of the first 130 miles of track in the Central Valley, today’s narrow 21-16 vote, which allocates roughly $8 billion for the first segment of track and related transportation projects, was cheered by proponents.

The high-speed rail plan also faces lawsuits by agriculture interests and potential opposition by major freight railroads.

Frankly, I am a little tired of obstructionists with no innovative proposals of their own. One side of the U.S. House of Representatives is FULL of them. It’s time again for innovation and creative thinking in America, because such thinking creates jobs and moves our nation ahead.

The promise of the project…? Californians may someday ride a bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles, traveling as fast as 220 miles/hour, rather than fly or burn the overpriced gasoline that Big Oil reserves for California.

“The Legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again,” Brown said in a statement. The governor has been promoting the project since taking office in 2011 and is expected to sign the funding bill.

The federal government, which is providing most of the money for the project, had threatened to rescind funding if the Legislature did not authorize funds this month.

The legislation was not without its detractors, however.

Republicans assailed the project as a misuse of taxpayer money. Not one GOP lawmaker voted for the bill in the Senate or in the Assembly, which passed the measure Thursday before adjourning until August. Both houses are now in recess.

The bill included $5.9 billion — about $3.2 billion in federal money already committed and $2.6 billion in state bond funds — for the section of track from Madera to Bakersfield.

There was also nearly $2 billion for other rail projects, such as electrification of Cal Train tracks in the Bay Area and improvements for Metrolink in Los Angeles County.

I used to joke that I tried once to register as a Republican in Ohio, but was told that I didn’t make enough money. 😉 The real problem is trying to register as a member of EITHER major party if your IQ is too high. 😉

On Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who had made repeated trips and telephone calls to California to push for the project, called the vote a “big win” for the state.

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

Democratic State Senators from around San Francisco and Los Angeles raised questions about the future of the project because Republicans in Congress (House Republicans, no doubt – headed [embarassingly for me] by a gentleman from Ohio) have threatened to cut off any future appropriations that would help complete the system.

See? Obstructionists. Is there any plan beyond opposition?

I remember a time in America when obstacles and obstructionists were not permitted to stand in the way of modernization, progress, and world leadership.

I am one of those “cockeyed optimists” who believe that such forward-looking times can come again. I hope for the sake of my children and grandchildren that I am right.

(Once upon a time, in 1995, I rode a bullet train from Osaka to Toyohashi, Japan. But that was so 20th Century…. 😉 )

(Note added July 7, 2012: As reported by CNN:

According to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the final rail line will allow passengers to zip between San Francisco and Los Angeles in less than three hours, and between Los Angeles and San Diego in 80 minutes.

Every year that the system is being built, as many as 100,000 construction-related jobs will be created, as will up to 450,000 permanent new jobs over the next 25 years, the agency says.


-Bill at

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