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Governor Brown Signs High-Speed Rail Bill

The law, passed by the state Legislature on July 6, authorizes the state to spend $8 billion on the first phase of the rail line.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Wednesday to fund the first phase of a $68 billion, first-in-the nation high-speed rail line connecting the Southland with San Francisco.

The governor signed the bill before an audience of construction workers and state and local government officials gathered at Union Station downtown.

The law passed by the state Legislature on July 6 authorizes the state to spend about $8 billion on the first phase of the rail line, including hundreds of millions of dollars for transit projects in Southern California and an expansion of Los Angeles' Union Station.

The projects will be funded by $2.6 billion in rail bonds passed by California voters in 2008 and $3.2 billion in federal funds for a 130-mile stretch of track allowing trains to travel from Madera to Bakersfield at 220 miles per hour. The bill also includes about $2 billion in funding for projects in the Bay Area and Los Angeles County.

Brown told the audience the project was about creating jobs and building an infrastructure to accommodate millions of new residents expected in the state in coming decades.

"In the midst of this recession, we're putting thousands of people to work," Brown said.

He called critics of the plan "declinists ... who say California's best days are behind us. That's not true. We're building the future."

The law greenlighted the spending of $115 million for the downtown regional connector, an underground light rail that will enable riders to get around Los Angeles County without having to transfer to different trains. Another $350 million will be available to pay for a major expansion of Union Station to allow trains to travel in two directions from the station. Under the existing configuration, trains leave in the same direction they enter.

Supporters say the project will create thousands of construction jobs. But critics argue the estimated $68 billion project has nearly doubled in cost and changed significantly from the plan voters approved in 2008. The original price tag was $40 billion.

The High Speed Rail Authority scaled the plan down to upgrade and use existing rail infrastructure around Los Angeles and San Francisco rather than build new tracks in the metro areas.

"Closing schools for three weeks, while spending $8 billion on 130 miles of train tracks, defies logic and is irresponsible," said Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar.

Local government officials say greater need is in fixing southern California's traffic problems, pointing to the Metro Gold Line extension project. Funding for the project's extension from the Azusa/Glendora border to Claremont is in a state of limbo.

“We are wasting $100 billion on a high speed rail that ends in the central Valley with no passengers,” argued Gold Line Construction Authority board member and Glendora City Councilman Doug Tessitor erlier this year. “And yet, we could use that money to solve Southern California’s transit needs. But that’s a dream and I won’t pretend to think our state and federal politicians could think that logically.”

High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard said construction would begin on track in the Central Valley in the next year.

"Five years from now, we will have completed the spine of the first high-speed rail system in the United States of America," Richard said. "Ten years from today, through this station, you'll be able to get on the high speed rail train and, by noon, (be) hiking up the trail of Yosemite to Half-Dome."

Brown was scheduled to hold a second signing ceremony in San Francisco this afternoon.

John July 19, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Too bad the state doesn't have any money...wait, 115 million??!?!
MellowMaverick July 19, 2012 at 07:52 PM
This high speed rail is a GREAT idea that should have been initiated decades ago. But putting a $68 billion dollar project in place now is wrong on so many levels. The most obvious is we don't have the MONEY! I hope those who ride this first segment from Madera to Bakersfield will appreciate the fact that their ride will be costing the rest of the state losses in police, firemen, teachers, road repair, infrastructure upgrades, textbooks, supplies and school improvements, and the list goes on and on. I guess i am extremely ignorant of how State budgeting works because I don't understand why state politicians would even consider a high speed rail system when we have other priorities that need our attention first! If those of us who find this expenditure baffling are missing something here, I would appreciate Jerry Brown and others bringing me up to speed, as it were.
Bill C. July 20, 2012 at 04:51 AM
More massive stupidity from the left as they ruin California.
Kevin July 20, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Most likely the biggest waste of money in modern American history and not only a waste but a huge transfer of money from the public to a few thieves. The HSRA are nothing more than modern day carpet baggers, these few men and the leaders of the unions that will "work" on this project will take so much from us that history will think of the public here in Calif. as fools and idiots and we are, if we allow this to go forward. The budget will not be $68 mill. it will most likely double or triple in the next few years with demands that "we've gone this far it must be finished." When will the people of Calif. learn that liberals do NOT have our best interests at heart, the only thing the govt. cares about is it's power and how to keep it. On top of that Jerry B. is in the pocket of the public employee unions, and his only thought is for them and how it brings money to his party. Wake up Calif. the wolves are not only at the door they are inside and chewing on your legs.
Lou Irigoyen July 21, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Another pet project that our state politicians were determined to see come to fruition. Unless we have not been paying attention over the last 30 to 40 years, the train concept in our state is obselete. If you ever watch the local commuter trains that run between San Bernardino and Los Angeles, you probably dont ever have over 30% of capacity at any given time. The only place where the train system works is in places like New York and Chicago where the infrastructure was built long before we had 300 million people in this country. Once cities reach occupancy level such as Los Angeles, it is impossible to build the systems and the support systems (street level shuttles) to allow people to travel freely anywhere they want. Here is another expense that California will have to foot well into the next generation of tax payers. It just never ends and like so many cattle, we just kept being led to the slaughterhouse. It is just vulgar. We are falling behind other countries that used to be called "third world" and we concern ourselves with projects that dont give us any leg up on becoming an economic power again. Yes these projects provide economic stimuli to the state and create thousands of jobs, but the burden to a tax system that is already 50 years in debt, is simply not fair to those of us that foot the bills. Oh... and lets not even get into the usual budget overruns that are associated with govenment projects. What a waste of money!!!

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