Although the pending high-speed rail project connecting Sacramento and San Diego doesn’t necessarily have a large affect on San Francisco’s internal transportation affairs, it is an interesting project that will affect most Californians in one way or another. Last Thursday, April 18, a Sacramento Judge approved a settlement between a coalition of Central Valley Farmers and the agency overseeing the construction of the high-speed rail. The settlement, which dictated that the agency set aside $5 million to preserve farmland in the Central Valley and that it pay $1 million in legal fees, puts the high-speed rail construction on track to begin this summer. The first section to be built will be a 30 mile section between Fresno and Madera right in the middle of the state.
This $68 billion project originally had quite a bit of voter approval and support at its outset, but the many legal delays (such as this most recent settlement) and rising estimated costs, have left many Californians disillusioned with the project which promises to connect most of California’s major cities and to provide public transportation in a state whose highways are legendary.
Despite the many setbacks, the Transportation Authority can breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate Thursday’s settlement. The settlemetn is esepcially timely given that the Authority is up against an impending deadline that will make or break the project. The first phase of the project- a 130-mile segment from Fresno to Bakersfield- has been approved and funded ($2.6 billion in bonds for construction and $3.2 billion from the federal government) all based on completion by 2017.