The California Legislature has approved building the nation’s first high-speed rail line, a $68 billion dollar project that one day will link Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Last week’s decision is a big political victory for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama, who have promoted bullet trains as a way to create jobs and provide clean transportation.
In 21-16 party-line vote that involved intense lobbying by the governor, legislative leaders and labor groups, the Senate approved the final measure, which has spent years in the planning stages.
Brown had pushed for the infrastructure project to accommodate future growth in the state, which now has 37 million people. State and federal officials also said high-speed rail would create jobs.
“No economy can grow faster than its transportation network allows,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “With highways between California cities congested and airspace at a premium, Californians desperately need an alternative.”
The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile stretch of the rail line in the Central Valley. That allows the state to draw another $3.2 billion in federal funding.
The first segment of the line will run from Madera to Bakersfield.
Senate Republicans opposed the decision, saying the project would push California over a fiscal cliff. No GOP senators voted for the bill.
The final cost of the project from Los Angeles to San Francisco is expected to be $68 billion.