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California to build $68 billion high-speed rail

California to build $68 billion high-speed rail

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When completed, California's $68 billion high-speed rail project will deliver passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours.

Photo: California High Speed Rail Authority

Today, the 130-mile trip from Bakersfield to Madera, California, takes three hours by train. In a few years the trip will take less than an hour, thanks to an agreement on high-speed rail approved by the California State Legislature Saturday.

Championed by California Governor Jerry Brown, California's $68 billion high-speed rail project will eventually deliver residents from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours. In addition to paving the way for future growth and assuaging the impact of thousands of automobile commuters on California's highways, the project is expected to create 450,000 permanent jobs in a state that is still reeling from the 2008 recession.

"The Legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again," Brown said.

While opponents said the project would toss the California's beleaguered finances off a fiscal cliff, proponents suggested the program would provide as an economic stimulus. "It is time to set the record straight," wrote Daniel Krause, executive director of California for High Speed Rail, in an editorial in the Ventura County Star. "The high-speed rail project will provide a dramatic boost to California's economy — and its budget outlook — at just the right time."

Young voters also weighed in on the project, starting the website OurTrain to spell out the details of the project. "The alternative to high-speed rail is to perpetuate our traffic problems and continue the unsustainable and costly practice of adding more lanes to our freeways," said OurTrain co-founder Fernando Santillan in a Merced Sun-Star editorial. "Eventually, even this solution will prove incapable of handling the growth in our population."

While audacious, California's high-speed rail project is not without risk. Many economists suggest that the answer to economic duress is austerity, rather than spending. California's high-speed rail project, the first of its kind in the country, will provide insight into the impact of infrastruture spending in trying economic times. Although with a estimated completion date of 2028, California and the rest of the country has a while to wait.

[Associated Press]

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Claire Lambrecht

Contributing Writer

Claire Lambrecht has written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Nation, and CBS MoneyWatch. Previously, she taught English as a Teach for America Corps Member and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She holds degrees from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, and the Arthur M. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure