California Funds High Speed Rail System

California has decided to start building its planned 800-mile high-speed rail system with a 65-mile segment that goes through Fresno but doesn’t connect the city with any of its large Central Valley neighbors. But that might change thanks to additional federal funding coming to the state after incoming Republican governors in Ohio and Michigan spurned rail projects planned for their states.

On December 2, the California High-Speed Rail Authority rejected proposals that would have kicked off the project either by linking Fresno with Bakersfield to the south, or with Merced to the north. Instead, the authority voted to build from an unincorporated burg called Borden, 20 miles north of Fresno, to Corcoran, 45 miles south of Fresno. Work on the $4.15 billion first segment, which will include a station in downtown Fresno and another near Hanford, is scheduled to begin in late 2012.

California high-speed rail, Central Valley segment

image via California High-Speed Rail Authority

But a week after the authority’s unanimous vote, Ohio and Michigan’s loss became a $624 million windfall for California. And that, the authority said, could change things. The new funding, it said in a press release, “is anticipated to further construction in the Central Valley toward another urban center.”

If it goes all the way to Merced, that would please Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Fresno), who has railed against the plan to begin construction with what he calls a “high speed train to nowhere.” Rail officials say the first segment is merely one piece in what will be a massive project, and that the system won’t begin carrying passengers until it links San Francisco to Los Angeles anyway.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

1 Comment

  • Reply February 2, 2011


    This has to be one of the biggest waste of money from the Federal Government to California. 1) This hi-speed railway will only covere as it says 65 miles of a 1200+ miles of state. We have a perfectly good transportation system in the Central Valley from Bakersfield to San Jose/San Francisco and beyond. You can connect from Sacramento to points east and even go north to Washington. An Amtrack (very nices) travels to Union Station, Los Angeles for points East. The money alloted for high speed rail could be used for maintenance on the already existence transportation, including the Metro System that starts in the Antelope Valley (Lancaster/Palmdale) to and through the Metro Los Angeles Area. How many passengers do you think will travel high speed for 65 miles only to have to get other transportation at each end. Why do we need to go faster. Just enjoy the ride on Amtrak. I believe that Senator Diane Feinstein who championed the high speed rail system is being very wasteful. California needs the $624 million dollars to repair and build other infrastructure. What is Washington thinking to pass this money on to Senator Feinstein. Guaranteed, she will not be any more appreciated in California for this fullish endeavor.

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