The California State Senate voted 21-16 today in approval of putting billions of dollars of funding into beginning work on California’s high-speed rail project. The project received $7.9 billion in state and federal money, which will be used for the first 130-miles of track and to upgrade a handful of transit programs, including Caltrain.
The State Senate vote follows a 51-27 State Assembly vote that authorized the spending. In today’s vote, most Democrats voted in favor of the project, while Republicans opposed it, according to NBC Bay Area.
Governor Jerry Brown, who pushed lawmakers to approve the project, will now receive the funding measure.
Brown released the following quote in a statement after the vote.
“In 2008, California voters decided to create jobs and modernize our state’s rail transportation system with a major investment in high-speed rail and key local projects in Northern and Southern California. The Legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again.”
Palo Alto’s own Senator Joe Simitian played a large role in today’s two hour-long discussions in Sacramento. He spoke for 15 minutes about the pros and cons before an ultimate conclusion that he could not support today’s proposal.
"I think high speed rail makes sense in California ...but we're not being asked to vote on a vision today, we're being asked to vote on particular plan," he said. “Regrettably the only conclusion I can come today is that this is the wrong plan in the wrong place in the wrong time.”
Simitian criticized the cost of the project, which is now estimated at about $69 billion, as well as the fact that the initial funding will go towards building track in the Central Valley, as opposed to metropolitan areas like San Francisco or Los Angeles that will attract more riders.
Assuming Senate Bill 1029 is approved by Gov. Brown, the state will begin selling $2.6 billion in voter-approved bonds to build track from Madera to Bakersfield. In addition to state funds, the federal government will put in $3.2 billion to the project, bringing the total building funds for the initial round to nearly $6 billion.