Though California is in the throes of a budget crisis, Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the state's high-speed rail project is well-positioned to compete for a significant share of the $8 billion that the Obama administration set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for rail lines.
This summer, California officials will be vying against other states to get funding for a planned high-speed rail corridor that would ferry passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in a 2-hour, 40-minute trip. Voters approved $9 billion in bonds for the project in November -- and promoters hope the federal government and the private sector will kick in enough money to help them complete the $34-billion first phase.
Construction between Anaheim and San Francisco would take at least a decade, according to planners. Ultimately, proponents envision an 800-mile network -- costing at least $45 billion -- that would reach Sacramento and San Diego.
"The reason why California is looked at so closely -- it's been a priority of your governor, it's been a priority of your Legislature, they've talked about it, a lot of planning has been done," Biden said in a conference call with reporters.
The vice president said the administration wants "to get shovel-ready projects out the door as quickly as we can. . . . So California is in the game."
Mehdi Morshed, executive director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said two sections of the project could meet the Recovery Act criteria for high-speed rail: of having contracts awarded by 2012 and work completed by 2017. The sections would be those between L.A. and Anaheim, at a cost of $3 billion, and between San Francisco and San Jose, at a cost of $4 billion to $5 billion, he said.