Stimulus adds $2-Billion to Calif High Speed Rail

SACRAMENTO, Calif. While in Florida, President Obama touted the grant monies today as part of his stimulus package to create jobs.

"We're going to put more Americans to work rebuilding our infrastructure and building our infrastructure of the future."

In California, leaders were excited over how it could create as many as 600,000 jobs during the life of the project and the environmental benefits because it encourages people to get out of their cars.

"By building this system, this high speed rail system, it's going to save us up to 12-billion pounds of greenhouse gasses per year," said Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) California Governor.

The money will be matched dollar for dollar using high speed rail bonds already approved by voters in 2008. So, it's nearly a $5-billion dollar boost to the $40-billion dollar project.

Four segments are targeted: Los Angeles to Anaheim, San Francisco to San Jose, Merced to Fresno, and Fresno to Bakersfield. They are the closest to entering the engineering and construction phases.

Critics say it's too early to award this stimulus money, especially since the San Francisco to San Jose route is in dispute over whether to elevate the trains, which would roar through people's backyards, or put it underground, which could add six times more the cost per mile.

"How do you spend engineering money, when you don't even have identified right of way that you know you can use?" asked Richard Tolmach with the California Rail Foundation.

But the High Speed Rail Authority says the above ground or underground debate will be decided soon enough after careful review.

"The main thing is not to delay. If you delay a $40-billion dollar project just one year at 5% construction inflation, you lose $2 billion in buying power," said Ron Diridon with the California High Speed Rail Authority.

The funding also will also pay for upgrades to the current rail system that will ultimately connect to the high-speed service. That is: The Capitol, San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner Corridors.

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