The state Senate will vote today on releasing $2.7 billion in funds for California’s high-speed rail project, a decision that will likely define the fate of the $68 billion undertaking.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority and Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to start construction on the project in the Central Valley has drawn criticism from some state senators, who said the money would be better spent in developed areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
For construction to start on the project next year, the Senate has to approve $2.7 billion in bond funds for the plan, and several informal polls of the legislators have found that the measure lacks the votes to pass.
Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority, told news outlets Thursday that if the measure fails in the Senate, the project is doomed. He said the federal government has made it clear that it will pull $3.3 billion in funding for the project if state lawmakers don’t back the plan. Without the federal support, the project would face massive funding obstacles.
If the funding plan isn’t approved, the high-speed rail network won’t be the only project in jeopardy. The package before the Senate includes hundreds of millions of dollars for local transportation projects, including plans to fund Muni’s Central Subway, the electrification of Caltrain and the purchase of new trains for BART. The funds for local transportation projects were included largely to gain the support of state senators skeptical of the plan.
On Thursday, the state Assembly approved the release of the bond funds.