California Slips High Speed Rail $616M

California is moving quickly to take advantage of the extra millions coming its way from the federal government after Wisconsin and Ohio spurned high-speed rail projects. The state’s High-Speed Rail Authority voted unanimously to match the $616 million coming from Washington, giving the state $5.5 billion for initial construction and allowing it to extend the first segment farther toward – if not into – Bakersfield.

Earlier this month the authority, working with just over $4 billion, had decided to start the massive project with a 65-mile segment from Borden, 20 miles north of Fresno, to Corcoran, 45 miles south of Fresno. That left out Bakersfield, the big city at the south end of the Central Valley, and prompted the local Congressman to call the project a “high-speed train to nowhere.”

California high-speed rail

image via California High-Speed Rail Authority

With the new funds, the authority was able to wriggle out of that charge, although it remained a bit coy about the precise route for the first segment. The authority said in its press release that “depending on which alignment is ultimately selected – a decision that will not be made until all applicable environmental work is done – the initial section may stretch nearly 120 miles from near Madera to the northernmost part of Bakersfield.” The Bakersfield Californian reported the segment would “come into the Bakersfield metropolitan area, but not cross the Bakersfield city limit because there isn’t enough money to go into the city proper.”

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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.