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.
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.
"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.
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 worry that funding for the project will eventually run dry before the rail network can be completed, leaving California with a "train to nowhere" in its agrarian midsection.
Cost estimates for the project, the most ambitious public works endeavor to date in California, have ballooned to $68 billion from $45 billion previously.
California has so far only approved partial state and federal financing for the project, including the issuance of $2.6 billion in state bonds, which would in turn unlock $3.2 billion in federal funds for construction of the tracks.
The Legislative Analyst's Office, an independent budget watchdog agency, said the source of funding for the project beyond the initial round was "highly uncertain." (Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Jackie Frank)