Moving quickly to take advantage of $616 million in new federal funding, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) board voted unanimously to approve committing state matching funds to extend construction of the initial Central Valley backbone of the statewide system south to Bakersfield.
The new federal funds, which were redistributed from other states that returned federal high-speed rail support, will now be coupled with state matching dollars, bringing the total available funds to begin construction to $5.5 billion.
The new total will allow engineers to significantly extend initial construction, potentially building as many as 120 miles of the project's 520-mile first phase, and incorporate the Valley's largest urban centers: Bakersfield and Fresno.
"Ohio's loss is our gain. When other states shrunk from the challenge of high-speed rail, California's firm commitment to this project paid off," said Tom Umberg, vice chairman of the Authority's board of directors. "This is the right place to start and the right way to start. Working from the midpoint of the system gives us flexibility to keep building north and south — and builds the backbone fundamental to a true high-speed rail system."
In addition, CHSRA is working with federal officials to jump-start designing and planning for high-speed rail stations across the entire state — including Merced, Bakersfield, Gilroy, San Jose and Los Angeles. The Authority anticipates that final agreement being negotiated with the Federal Railroad Administration will include allocations to Southern California and potentially other areas, a step toward funding advanced improvement projects, station area planning and right-of-way acquisition.
Earlier this month, the Authority selected a 65-mile stretch through the Central Valley to begin construction of California's high-speed rail line, which will eventually connect the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and beyond.