Nail-biter Vote In CA: State Senate Approves High Speed Rail

Without a vote to spare, the CA state senate voted to authorize $5.8 billion to begin construction in the Central Valley of the nation's first true HSR system. The assembly passed the bill earlier in the week.

David Siders provided the play-by-play in the Senate chambers:

"The approval was uncertain as recently as hours before the vote. With all 15 Republican senators opposed to the measure and several Democratic lawmakers wavering, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg scrambled to muster at least 21 of 25 Democratic votes.

Twenty-one Democratic senators voted 'Yes.'

Sen. Joe Simitian of Palo Alto was one of four Democrats to break ranks with his colleagues. Simitian said he supports the vision of high-speed rail, but not the current plan. He said there are "billions of reasons" to oppose it.

Other Democratic senators opposing the measure were (Plan B) supporter Mark DeSaulnier, of Concord, Alan Lowenthal, of Long Beach, and Fran Pavley, of Agoura Hills."

Marisa Lagos of SF Gate further reports on the measure's passage.
"The funding measure, which was easily approved in the Assembly Thursday, will now head to Gov. Jerry Brown, who pushed lawmakers to approve it. In all, the state Legislature this week authorized the issuance of $4.6 billion in state bond funds - about half of the $9.9 billion approved by voters in 2008 - and opened the door for California to obtain $3.3 billion in federal grants, for a total of $7.9 billion in spending."

Had the 21 votes in the Senate not materialized, California would have followed in the footsteps of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida where new Republican governors rejected Federal high speed rail funds. In California, new Democrat governor, Jerry Brown, supported the project as did his precessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. It would have been a Democrat-majority state legislature that would have rejected the massive project.

Thanks to Scott Shackford

Full Story: California Senate approves funding for high-speed rail

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Irvin Dawid's picture
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More info on CA's historic senate vote

California High-Speed Rail Authority Statement on Passage of SB 1029:
"The Legislature’s action sets in motion a Statewide Rail Modernization Plan for California. Not only will California be the first state in the nation to build a high-speed rail system to connect our urban centers, we will also modernize and improve rail systems at the local and regional level....", said Chair Dan Richard.

LA Times: Senate passes high-speed rail funding, which now goes to governor: The vote "hand(ed) a major victory to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration. The $8-billion legislation will fund the project's first stretch, covering 130 miles from Madera to Bakersfield. After the Assembly approved funding on Thursday, the pressure was on Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) to round up support in his chamber."

Caltrain press release on senate vote: Caltrain Modernization Takes Important Step Forward: “There is a generational responsibility to leave behind a world that is better than the one we found. This speaks to that responsibility,” said Executive Director Mike Scanlon.

The “blended system” advanced by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Assemblyman Rich Gordon and State Senator Joe Simitian will allow Caltrain and high-speed rail to operate primarily on Caltrain’s existing tracks, minimizing the impacts on the communities through which it passes.

Electrification also will help Caltrain reduce its ongoing financial problems. Not only are electric trains less expensive to operate, but modern, electric Caltrain service will attract more riders, which will bring more revenue."

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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