Florida High Speed Rail funds head for Central Valley

FRESNO, Calif.

California is getting $300 million for the Central Valley section of the high speed rail project, and another nearly $400 million for other rail improvements, including new cars for the existing Amtrak system.

Congressman Jim Costa of Fresno says the money could allow the first leg of the project to run from Merced to Bakersfield, through Fresno. The money should also allow the start of a line heading West toward San Jose.

At a news conference in Fresno on Monday Costa said the benefits to the local economy will be enormous. "It means jobs, jobs and jobs to our Valley."

Costa has lead the fight for High Speed Rail for more than a decade. Jeff Baker, The Deputy Director of the California High Speed Rail Authority said the fact the voters of California have already committed billions to prompted the Federal Government to send more money here.

"Of every Federal dollar available for high speed rail we've gotten 40% of every dollar already. That's a testament to California's project."

The California High Speed Rail Authority says the $300 million from Florida added to the already committed Federal funds and state matching funds add up to more than $3 billion to begin building the first stretch of the system, initially connecting Fresno Merced and Bakersfield. Despite the more than one hundred thousand jobs it could mean the three Republican Congressmen from the Central Valley, Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, Devin Nunes of Visalia and Jeff Denham of Atwater have spoken out against the project, saying now is not the time to spend Federal money. But Costa, a Democrat, disagrees.

"In the midst of the depression we went ahead and built Hoover Dam. Most economists will tell you that when you are in difficult economic times making long term investments in infrastructure will stimulate the economy."

Economist Sean Alley, a professor at Fresno State believes government spending on public works projects during an economic downturn can be beneficial. "Among one group of economists that are probably among the dominant ones in the thought process, the government should be spending more when the economy is a little weaker to sort of balance out those fluctuations in the economy so this is probably the time to be spending on public works."

Alley adds the massive construction project, could have a positive impact. "It will definitely be a benefit to the economy to Fresno and Fresno county and the Valley more generally when we get dollars generated from outside the economy that funnel into our local economy and start circulating here that's good for us."

Construction on the first leg of California's 800 mile High Speed Rail System is slated to begin in Fresno during the summer of 2012.

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