Disregarding the state’s mounting budgetary woes, California lawmakers green-lighted the first phase of construction on a controversial high-speed rail line that has become littered with financial hiccups and logistical roadblocks. Without a concrete plan for funding, the landmark rail line, the first of its kind in the United States, has been plagued with budgetary concerns, as private investments have become increasingly circumspect and as taxpayers bemoan the inevitable outcome of higher taxes to pay for the project.
Following years of heated legislative battles, California senators approved in a 21-16 vote on July 6 to allot some $8 billion for the project’s initial line of track, which is slated to operate trains at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour. The vote approved $4.5 billion in state funding and provided $3.2 billion in federal bond money.
“The legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and put California out in front once again,” Governor Jerry Brown asserted following the vote.
Proponents say the high-speed rail line will lessen environmental damage, ease dependence on foreign oil, generate thousands of jobs, and ignite an explosion in economic growth for California businesses. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood added his support, lauding the initiative for its purportedly meaningful contribution to the state’s economy. "I congratulate the Legislature on taking this action, which will create thousands of jobs and strengthen the California economy," LaHood noted in a blog post. "In the next 20 years, California expects more than 7 million additional residents. But, as the state's residents know all too well, the highways between California cities are already congested, and short-haul takeoff and landing slots at Golden State airports are at a premium."
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Photo of California High-Speed Rail Authority chairman Tom Umberg: AP Images