The California High-Speed Rail Authority voted unanimously today to apply for all of the high-speed rail funding recently returned to the federal government by the state of Florida.
The Authority Board of Directors approved the staff recommendation that California pursue the $2.43 billion recently made available and offer a 20% state match in order to make California more competitive for these funds.
The resulting funds could allow the completion of the entire backbone of the statewide system – linking Merced and Bakersfield, including stations in each respective city. In addition to completing the backbone, it could also allow the Authority to build either north or south – north 39 additional miles toward the Bay Area or south, past Bakersfield, up to the Tehachapi Mountains.
Obtaining just over half of Florida’s money, along with the state match, would still give the Authority the potential to lay the track that will connect Merced to Bakersfield – the critical “backbone” of the statewide system where high-speed trains will travel at 220 miles per hour and ensure that California’s system is competitive with other modes of travel.
“California has proven that it can and will lead the nation with a vision of true high-speed rail,” said Curt Pringle, Chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board.
“Every mile of track laid in the Central Valley represents another step toward realizing a statewide system to connect north and south, which will bring private investment, job creation, and economic strength to California.”
Florida’s declined funding, if re-allocated to California, has the potential to create up to 64,000 additional well-paying jobs – in addition to the more than 100,000 jobs that will be created with the initial $5.5 billion already secured to begin construction on the high-speed rail system.
“Applying every new dollar to extend construction of our system’s backbone in the Central Valley is the logical next step to build toward connecting our system into metropolitan areas,” said Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
“A continued and long-term commitment from the federal government is needed in order to give the very interested private sector the confidence it needs to invest.”
The federal government recently announced that states can apply for Florida’s returned $2.43 billion in high-speed rail funding. This funding includes $1.63 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding and $800 million in Fiscal Year 2010 transportation funding. Applications are due by April 4, 2011.
Under the Authority’s proposal, electrifying the track, purchasing the trains, and operating passenger service would come at a later phase of development.
California’s planned high-speed rail system continues to undergo environmental review, and nothing in the Authority’s application for federal funds prejudges that review. The final track alignment through the Central Valley is dependent on the environmental review process, and therefore the ultimate number of track miles possible from re-allocated funds from Florida to California depends on that environmental determination.
The draft environmental review for the Central Valley segments is scheduled to be completed in June/July and is scheduled to go before the Authority’s Board of Directors in late 2011 / early 2012 for a decision on the final alignment.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is developing an 800-mile high-speed train system that will operate at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour, connecting the state’s major urban centers, including the Bay Area, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego.
The first phase of the project, San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim, is projected to cost $43 billion. Initial infrastructure construction will begin in the Central Valley, the backbone of the system, in 2012. The project is being funded through a voter-approved state bond, federal funding awards and public-private partnerships.