March 6, 2009

Calif. HSR board gets fed stimulus update

Steps taken over the last decade have put California in a strong position to win a sizeable share of $8 billion in federal stimulus funding for its high-speed train system, according to a top consultant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA).

Competing with transit systems around the nation, California's high-speed train system has a distinct advantage because it is the only one with billions of dollars in voter-approved state funding committed to the project, with the first round environmental clearances already completed and construction planning under way, the latter a key criteria for winning a share of the funds, according to Sasha Page of Maryland-based Infrastructure Management Group.

Page also reported to the CHSRA board on private investment in the system, another key element of the train's long-term financial foundation. Page said that while the world economic crisis has put a chill on the level and extent of private participation at this time, major investors and companies remain interested in or committed to participation in a public-private partnership that is expected to play a key role in the development and operation of the system.

A CHSRA team, led by Chairman Quentin Kopp, will travel to Washington next week to meet with President Obama administration officials and Congressional leaders as the details of the high-speed train funding are being worked out.

"We want to have input on the strategic plan for high-speed rail that is being developed in Washington and to give the secretary of transportation guidance on what we believe should be included in the grant-making criteria that will direct the distribution of those critical federal funds," said Kopp.

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