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California wants $4.7 billion in high-speed rail stimulus

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has applied for more than half the $8 billion allotted for high-speed rail. State officials say California's plan is the most shovel-ready.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 7, 2009

Los Angeles

California's decade-old dream of a bullet train is inching closer to reality.

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On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger applied for $4.7 billion of the roughly $8 billion of the federal stimulus funds set aside for high-speed rail projects.

The state has a good chance of snagging the money, say officials and some observers. With a high-speed rail authority formed as far back as 1996, California is further ahead in its plans than most states including in identifying key routes and completing design plans and environmental impact statements.

Most importantly, perhaps, state voters in November approved a $10 billion bond measure for a high-speed train line that guarantees the federal government that its investment will be matched dollar for dollar.

"They will get twice their investment back in jobs and economic stimulus in California," says Jeff Barker, deputy director for the California High Speed Rail Authority. Governor Schwarzenegger estimates California's plan can provide 130,000 of President Obama's goal of saving or creating 150,000 jobs through rail projects.

The state's high-speed rail plan aims to eventually run from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours, but initial phases include links from San Francisco to San Jose and Los Angeles to Anaheim.

Beating the competition

Still, California will face intense competition from other states, most notably from Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Chicago.

Since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 40 states have submitted 272 applications for high-speed rail grants, totaling $105 billion in projects, according to the US Public Interest Research Group. Mark Paustenbach, chief spokesman for US Department of Transportation, says announcements may be made within a month.

In April, Mr. Obama announced a plan for a national high-speed rail network that identified 10 priority intercity rail corridors, including California, the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf Coast, Chicago Hub Network, Florida, and New England.