California lawmakers have given the OK to the state’s largest-ever construction project—the nation’s first high-speed rail line. However, there are still many obstacles ahead.
Last Friday, state legislature narrowly approved the allocation of $4.5 billion in state funds for rail improvements and to begin construction of the first segment in Central Valley. The move allowed the state to collect $3.2 billion of the $10 billion in federal bonds which were approved for the project in 2008. So far, only about $13 billion of the total estimated $68 billion has been allocated for the project.
There are no guarantees regarding where the rest of the funding will come from. Congressional republicans have said they will block any further funding for the project and investors have not bought into the project as predicted. California voters are also becoming wary of the project; a field poll showed that if the 2008 rail bond was put to vote today, it would fail.
In addition to the funding issues, farmers and local land owners are intensifying their efforts to derail the project that will leave 1,500 acres of fertile farm land unusable and disrupt more than 500 agricultural businesses. But that is a small price to pay for the environmental benefits the project will bring, including:
· Reduced air pollution/smog and improved air quality
· Reduced dependence on foreign oil (saving 12.7 million barrels/year)
· Reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 12 billion lbs./year