Monday, March 28, 2011

CAHSRA to apply for $1.2 billion in rejected Florida funds

Via the Merced Sun-Star:

High-speed rail may come to Merced sooner than expected, as the California High Speed Rail Authority will announce today it's asking for $1.2 billion in funding that was rejected by Florida.

If the request is approved, it would mean the first phase of track will run from Merced to Bakersfield. Also, instead of building a station just in downtown Fresno, stations will be built in Merced and Bakersfield. The authority is also looking at building a station in Tulare County.

"This is very good news for Merced," said Mayor Bill Spriggs on Sunday afternoon. "The City Council has always supported high-speed rail. We were disappointed when the Corcoran-to-Borden route was announced."

"If we get a portion of Florida's money, we'll able to complete the entire backbone of the project," Jeff Barker, deputy director of the rail authority, told the Sun-Star Friday.

In December, after receiving federal money from canceled high-speed rail projects in Wisconsin and Ohio, the authority announced it was building the first leg from Shafter to Borden. That was quickly dubbed "the train to nowhere" by some critics and disappointed advocates.

The application deadline is April 4 for the $2.43 billion that Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott turned down. Barker said the state will provide a 30 percent match from state Proposition 1A funds that will bring the total to more than $1.7 billion.

"We already have $5.5 billion to start construction from Borden to Shafter," he said.
Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, who wrote Proposition 1A, which voters approved in November 2008, said "It's not a question of whether were going to get the money, but how much."

The staff will make its recommendation to the authority's board Wednesday.

"With the extra money we think we can do one of two things," Barker said: Extend the track to south of Bakersfield to at least Te-hachapi or build the track 39 miles beyond the triangle at Chowchilla toward Los Banos and San Jose.Laying the "keel" of the high-speed rail in the Valley, Galgiani said, "gets us closer to getting private money on the table. It signals to the private investment community that we are serious."

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