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California closer to dream of being US high-speed rail capital

President Obama announced Thursday that California would receive $2.7 billion to boost its high-speed rail plan. The state hopes to link Los Angeles and San Francisco by 2017.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / January 28, 2010

An Amtrak train switches tracks after arriving from Chicago Thursday, in St. Louis.

Jeff Roberson/AP

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Los Angeles

Californians are cheering the news that the state’s high-speed rail project is getting $2.3 billion from the federal stimulus program.

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The amount is considerably less than the $4.7 billion requested by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October. But experts say the award is still good news for the state’s transportation system.

“Unfortunately it’s not everything we wanted but it is still just what the state needs.… It will bring jobs and great infrastructure building,” says Jessica Levinson of the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) in Los Angeles. Voters already approved $10 billion in state funds in November 2008.

The federal funding requires that the project start by the fall of 2012. The first sections will be from Anaheim to Los Angeles and San Francisco to San Jose. A line through the Central Valley will connect them.

California the high-speed rail capital

Ms. Levinson says it’s important to make sure the contracting process is open and transparent. But Kris Deutschman of the California High Speed Rail Authority says that the contract structure has not been determined yet and could include foreign partners to design, build, and operate the system.

“What we feel is so significant about this is that the federal government – the Obama administration – has recognized the need for new transportation,” says Ms. Deutschman. “California voters have been behind this for years and now we can point to this terrific vote of confidence from Washington.”

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.

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