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First leg of Calif. high-speed rail approved

A 65-mile section of track from Merced to Fresno has been approved by the US Federal Railroad Administration. California's new high speed rail system will eventually cover 800 miles.

By Mary SlossonReuters / September 19, 2012

Two European high-speed trains one German, left, one French, arrive at the Gare de l'est train station in Paris in 2007. The first leg of the high-speed rail project in California was approved Wednesday, and construction will begin in 2013.

Michel Euler/AP/File

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Sacramento

The initial segment of California's ambitious $68 billion high speed rail project won the approval of the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration on Wednesday, clearing the way for construction to begin in 2013.

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Federal authorities approved a 65-mile section of track through the state's central agricultural heartland, from Merced to Fresno, after environmental and engineering reviews were completed.

California's bullet train network, expected to take decades to complete, would eventually connect Sacramento and San Francisco to Los Angeles, with stops along the 800-mile system.

"We are now poised to move forward and break ground next year," Jeff Morales, CEO of theCalifornia High-Speed Rail Authority, said in a statement, adding that the project would invest billions of dollars in local and regional rail systems.

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