Cement is laid on the San Joaquin River viaduct portion of the high-speed rail line being built in Fresno, Calif., on May 8, 2019, amid ongoing construction of the railway in the state's Central and San Joaquin Valleys. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
California is closer to building a high-speed rail that would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, with $6.1 billion in federal funds recently awarded for two rail projects in the state.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority will receive $3.1 billion for the initial segment connecting the two cities, where a 171-track connecting Merced, Fresno, and Bakersfield is underway. Another rail project received $3 billion towards the construction of a track connecting Rancho Cucamonga, about 42 miles east of Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.
“California is delivering on the first 220-mph, electric high-speed rail project in the nation,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, referring to the Merced to Bakersfield connection, in a press release Dec. 5. “This show of support from the Biden-Harris Administration is a vote of confidence in today’s vision and comes at a critical turning point, providing the project new momentum.”
According to the governor’s office, high-speed rail construction in the state has created 12,000 union jobs to date and the recent grant is the largest yet for the program, coming from President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—which provides $1.2 trillion towards infrastructure in the United States.
In an announcement the same day, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, who helped secure the funds for the Merced-Bakersfield project, said the funding would be used to purchase six electric trains for testing at speeds up to 220 mph, construct the Fresno station, and for track construction and design.
Some industry experts argue the funding isn’t enough, after a recent project update revealed costs to build the track for Merced to Bakersfield increased
by around $8 billion since last year’s estimate.
“The $3.07 billion dollars that they’re getting is less than the cost escalation that occurred between the 2022 business plan and the 2023 project update … So they still don’t have enough money to build the initial 171-mile operating segment between Merced and Bakersfield,” Marc Joffe, policy analyst at the Cato Institute—a Washington D.C based think tank—told The Epoch Times.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who helped secure funds for the Las Vegas rail, said in a press release
, also Dec. 5, that the project, which is being constructed by a company called Brightline, will help cut down on traffic and boost the state’s economy.
“Connecting Las Vegas and Southern California by high-speed rail will create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs, boost our Southern Nevada tourism economy, and finally help us cut down on I-15 traffic,” she said.
Brightline could eliminate around 3 million cars from the I-15 each year, reducing over 400,000 tons of carbon emissions and creating 35,000 union jobs, according to Ms. Cortez Masto’s press release.
The private company finished a project earlier this year connecting the cities of Miami and Orland and expects to be finished by 2028 in California. The expected trains will reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, where passengers can travel from Rancho Cucamonga to Las Vegas in just over two hours, according to their website