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The California High-Speed Rail Authority's Board Took a 'Momentous' Step on Tuesday

The California High-Speed Rail Authority voted on December 13 to approve two plans that would spend $3.2 billion in high-speed rail bond funds for continuing construction in the Central Valley and help pay for Caltrain commuter rail electrification.
December 15, 2016, 11am PST | Irvin Dawid
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California High Speed Rail Authority

By approving the two plans on Tuesday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board took the first step "toward unlocking billions of dollars in state bond funds that it needs to continue construction in the San Joaquin Valley and on the San Francisco Peninsula," reports Tim Sheehan for The Fresno Bee.

$9.95 billion in bond funds were approved were approved by voters in 2008 in Proposition 1A.. Board Chairman Dan Richard described the unanimous vote of approval of the two plans as 'momentous' as this is the first time the board has sought to tap the funds.

  • $2.6 billion "to continue construction of 119 miles of tracks in the San Joaquin Valley,.. In the funding plan [PDF], the authority estimates that it will take $7.8 billion to build what it describes as a fully electrified test line where it will eventually conduct trials of its electric trains at speeds above 200 mph," adds Sheehan. The funds would be used to match federal Recovery Act funds.
  • About $600 million for Caltrain electrification from San Jose to San Francisco. "In the funding plan [PDF], the rail authority states that it will operate its high-speed trains on a 'blended system' that shares tracks with the Caltrain commuter rail line on more than 50 miles between San Jose and San Francisco," adds Sheehan.Board chairman Dan Richard described the votes as “momentous.”

“There’s been a long path to get to the (Proposition) 1A money. Because we are now fully mobilized in construction, it’s really important to keep the momentum going,” Richard said. “By moving forward today, we assure that we have sufficient funds to meet the federal matching requirements in the best way.”

While the state legislature appropriated the funds in 2012, it is the state Director of Finance that makes the final call to release the bond funds, with input from the joint legislative budget committee.

Also on Tuesday, high-speed rail opponents filed suit "to challenge the validity of Assembly Bill 1889," adds Sheehan. "AB 1889 clarifies that Caltrain’s electrification project is 'suitable and ready' for investment and that the investment in the Caltrain system is consistent with the Authority’s current business plan," according to Caltrain.

Also in the media:

  • Listen to an interview of Tim Sheehan by Alex Cohen of KPCC on Wednesday about the authority's actions on Tuesday. 
  • The 1-hour, CA HSRA board meeting can be seen on YouTube.
  • An AP article by Juliet Williams on the meeting is also accessible via The Mercury News.
  • Capital Public Radio: tape and text on HSRA actions taken.
Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, December 13, 2016 in The Fresno Bee
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