The California state assembly just approved the sale of $2.7 billion in bonds to fund the California high-speed rail project, reports the San Jose Mercury-News. Next up is the big test--the state senate, which is divided on the bullet train. Should the senate agree to sell the bonds, more than $3 billion in federal funds will be released for the eventual San Francisco to Los Angeles line, allowing construction to start on a 130-mile stretch in the Central Valley (another $2 billion in state money will go to preparing NorCal and SoCal for the bullet trains by electrifying existing lines). But if the senate votes no, the project is essentially dead because the feds will take the matching funds and give them to other projects, according to rail authority board chairman Dan Richard. "Without that federal match, we're not going to be able to go forward," Richard said, according to the Sacramento Bee. "So, effectively, yes, this is the time when California decides, 'Do we want to move forward with this rail modernization or don't we?'"
In a senate budget committee meeting today, Democratic senators quizzed rail authority representatives on everything from where the train's remaining $50 to $60 billion price tag will come from to why so much work and money is being spent in the middle of the state (no word on the responses, though we know construction closer to SF or LA is complicated by lawsuits, as well as grade-separating the line with bridges and tunnels). As it stands now, 21 of 25 Democrats must vote yes tomorrow to ensure the bullet train stays alive, as all Republicans are expected to vote no.
· California Assembly approves high-speed rail, leaving only Senate between bullet train and construction [Mercury-News]
· High-Speed Rail Archives [Curbed LA]