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California High-Speed rail project appeals for US$4.1 billion bond

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has presented the latest change on how to pay for the project; using bond money, they have appealed for US$4.1 billion to fund the completion of the 119 miles of track in the Central Valley. The state of California now expects to finish that construction by 2023, a year delay from the last proposal. The changes to the project’s business and funding plan will now go to a peer review group and state lawmakers for approval. The rail authority’s board voted to advance the new business and funding plan with the understanding that it must go through multiple other reviews and public comments.

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Voters in 2008 approved a nearly $10 billion bond, with most of the money dedicated to “establish high-speed train service linking Southern California counties, the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.” But rail officials now want to take most of what’s left, about US$4.1 billion, to finish the 119-mile segment of track from Madera to Bakersfield. That segment will run and test trains until a larger, 171-mile track is completed for passenger service from Bakersfield to Merced. Trains aren’t expected to be in service for passenger use until 2029.

Stuart Flashman, a lawyer in several cases against the project, has however stated that spending the rest of the money on the 119-mile segment of track in the Central Valley does not meet the original aims of the bond. “Both the funding plan and the business plan continue to double down on the board’s decisions to build a part of a Central Valley segment that is still not going to be a usable segment,” Flashman said during a public comment. Brian Kelly, the project’s chief executive officer, stated “There’s no question we were hit, but it is important to note, especially when you see the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy and jobs broadly, that this enterprise is creating jobs.”

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