California high-speed rail wins approval

An artist's rendition courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority 6 July 2012 As yet, the high-speed train exists only as artistic renditions

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California lawmakers have approved financing for a bullet train that would eventually become part of the first dedicated high-speed line in the US.

In a 21-16 vote, the Senate approved a 130 mile (209km) stretch, part of a larger line proposed to run from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Critics say the train is an wasteful expense, while supporters say it is a necessary infrastructure project.

The final cost of the completed LA-San Francisco line is estimated at $68bn.

Governor Jerry Brown had lobbied intensely for the train. After he signs the bill - expected to be a formality - California will begin selling $2.6bn (£1.7bn) in bonds to finance the first segment.

The financing was approved by California's lower house, the Assembly, on Thursday.

"The legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again," Mr Brown said in a statement after the Senate vote.

'Fiscal train wreck'

The vote on Friday also allows California to use $3.2bn in federal financing. The state will have more federal funds because several states turned down money for high-speed rail projects.

An artist's rendition courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority shows a station Additional stations are proposed at airports along the route

Senate Republicans argued California's budget - currently projected to be $16bn in the red - has already been hit too hard to approve the funding.

"This is a colossal fiscal train wreck for California," Republican Senator Tony Strickland said during debate. "Members, this bill is spending money we simply don't have here in California."

Many Democrats said high-speed rail was essential to the state's future, including dealing with population growth.

"There could not conceivably be enough freeway lanes to manage another 50% in automobiles," Senator Mark Leno said. "There couldn't possibly be enough runway space to accommodate an increase in 50% of additional air passengers."

Some business leaders from the San Francisco Bay and Silicon Valley areas supported the measure and had been working to lobby legislators in recent weeks.

Bay Area Council president Jim Wunderman called the vote a "courageous step forward for California's future".

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