Stimulus to keep rail plan moving

In a bid to keep the high-speed rail project in California on track, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will submit paperwork today for more than $4.5 billion in federal stimulus funds.

Construction of the rail line, which is projected to whisk passengers from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours 40 minutes,
is estimated to cost between $30 billion and $35 billion, according to Rod Diridon, a member of board of directors for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

In order to keep the project moving, the $4.8 billion from the federal government is a key, Diridon said. The federal government is expected to respond to the grant application in the next four to five months, and he said the state is confident it will receive the money.

“We’re more advanced with our high-speed rail plans than any other state in the country,” Diridon said.

The wide array of politicians and bureaucrats — such as state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Assembly members Jerry Hill, Joe Coto, Jim Beall and Ira Ruskin — that are set to attend today’s event with Schwarzenegger to show a united front for the funding of the rail system.
But, there are still grumblings that could threaten to undermine future funding.

Along with the stimulus funds, the state also hopes to dip in to future federal handouts, including
$50 billion expected during five years in annual congressional authorizations for high-speed rail, another
$1 billion to $2 billion in federal appropriations and $5 billion anticipated from a transportation initiative led by the Obama administration,
Diridon said.

State voters invested $9.95 billion in the project when they approved a bond measure in November. If the funding schedule continues to go as planned — which would include this latest injection from the feds — construction could begin by late 2012 on the San Jose-San Francisco portion of the rail.

“If we get the type of funding we anticipate, we should have more than enough,” Diridon said. “But to get that funding, it’s absolutely necessary to have a united California.”

The largest opposition in the Bay Area comes from five communities on the Peninsula — Belmont, Burlingame, Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto — that have banded together in opposition of high-speed rail. The towns are concerned that the 20-foot retaining walls needed for the line will create barriers in the community and adversely affect the areas economically.

“High-speed rail is extremely harmful in lots of different ways, and I think the communities here are finally starting to realize that,” said Martin Engel, a Menlo Park resident who has led community efforts against the project.

Representatives from the rail authority released preliminary design plans for the Peninsula on Wednesday, but the exact layout of the rail won’t be decided for another year and a half.

“Our biggest vulnerability right now is delay and dissension,” Diridon said. “We have to be together on this if we want to receive the federal funding we think we deserve.”

Funding streams

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is expecting to secure funding for the project through a variety of sources.

$4.8 billion in federal stimulus funds

$50 billion during the next five years in annual congressional authorizations for high-speed rail

$1 billion to $2 billion Federal appropriations

$5 billion Anticipated from transportation initiative led by Obama administration

$9.95 billion State bonds approved by voters in November

Source: California High-Speed Rail Authority

 

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