By Mary Slosson
SACRAMENTO, July 18 California Governor Jerry
Brown on Wednesday signed an initial funding bill for the
state's ambitious high-speed rail project, clearing the way for
construction of a 130-mile section of track through the state's
Brown signed the legislation in Los Angeles, one of the
planned endpoints of the bullet train network. He was due in San
Francisco later on Wednesday for another ceremony celebrating
what is a substantial win for the Democratic governor.
Brown says a bullet train network will boost job creation
and provide an alternative to car and plane travel in the
country's most populous state.
Critics say the state can ill afford the $68 billion project
that farmers unions regard as an "imminent threat" to some of
the most agriculturally productive land in the United States.
"This legislation will help put thousands of people in
California back to work," Brown said. "By improving regional
transportation systems, we are investing in the future of our
state and making California a better place to live and work."
The bullet train network, expected to take decades to
complete, would eventually connect Sacramento and San Francisco
to Los Angeles, with stops along the way.
The California Senate narrowly approved the measure earlier
in July after a lengthy floor debate in which critics said the
cash-strapped state lacked the financial means to undertake the
project, the most ambitious public works endeavor to date in
The state and federal financing outlined in the bill
includes the issuance of $2.6 billion in state bonds, which
would in turn unlock $3.2 billion in federal funds for
construction of track in the Central Valley that was expected to
begin at the end of 2012 or the start of 2013.
The bill, which passed by a wider margin in the
Democratic-controlled Assembly one day before the contentious
Senate vote, also approves spending over $2 billion in federal,
state and local funds on rail projects in urban areas to prepare
to link them to a statewide system.
Construction on the bullet train line will start in the
agriculturally rich Central Valley where trains could reach 220
mph over flat and more sparsely populated terrain.
"You can pave farmlands with new roads and blackout skies
with airplanes but the air we breathe will be no better than a
tailpipe," California state Senator Darrell Steinberg said in a
statement welcoming the governor's signature. "This project
brings an infusion of energy into rural areas of high
unemployment and provides relief for urban traffic gridlock."