Late last week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (“Authority”) approved the submission of an additional funding application to the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) that would, if approved, extend the “starter” segment of the High-Speed Rail Project (“HSR”) north to Merced and south to downtown Bakersfield, making the segment fully operational after construction. The first segment of Phase I is presently set to begin just south of Madera, in the town of Borden, and end in Corcoran.
Other states’ decisions to return federal funding for their high-speed rail projects has been a boon to California’s plans. Last month, the Governor of Florida, following similar decisions by the Governors of Ohio and Wisconsin last year, returned his state’s allocation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding and other federal grants made for rail projects in 2010. Florida’s decision made an extra $2.43 billion available to other states, including California.
With Florida out of the running for this round of funding, the Authority’s chances of having its application approved are very good, although Congress could take some action to block the funding. In addition to the application to extend the “starter” segment to Merced and Bakersfield, the Board also approved additional funding applications for two additional “extensions” of the starter segment: and an extension the rail from Merced westward 39 miles to a point near San Luis Reservoir close to Los Banos, and an extension of the rail southward from the Bakersfield station to Palmdale at the base of the Tehachapi Mountains.
The Board directed that the additional applications were to be considered only if there was additional funding available from the FRA, and that these applications be further conditioned in that, if the FRA is inclined to approve of additional funding beyond the Authority’s first application, the Authority be advised so that it can inform the FRA (at that time) which additional extension it prefers to be funded. Therefore, the Board must be prepared in the very near future to answer the question of whether the HSR will first go to San Jose or Los Angeles from the Central Valley.
The Authority’s CEO’s report to the Board for the March 30, 2011 meeting may be found here. http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/2011_March.aspx