High-Speed Rail

High-speed rail funds on way to California

An artist's depiction of a high-speed rail train zooming past downtown Fresno.
An artist's depiction of a high-speed rail train zooming past downtown Fresno.

The Federal Railroad Administration has formally ponied up more than $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds to plan and build California's proposed high-speed rail system.

But the state must wait for more than $700 million promised last fall to build tracks starting in 2012 between Fresno and Bakersfield.

Late Tuesday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority made public its grant agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration for money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, earmarked specifically for high-speed trains in the Valley.

The state and federal governments faced a Dec. 31 deadline to sign grant agreements for stimulus funds.

While the agreement includes $616 million in stimulus funds rejected by Ohio and Wisconsin, it omits $715 million that was announced by FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo at a high-profile event in Fresno in October. That money was coming not from the stimulus bill, but from another program to promote and improve intercity rail service across the U.S.

Officials initially expected all of the money to be packaged together.

But Will Crain, a spokesman for Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said federal rail officials instead chose to deal with the stimulus money in a separate agreement.

"The FRA is now in the process of putting together a grant package for the other $715 million," Crain said.

State officials say they're not worried about a delay in the funding. Between the federal grants and state bond funds, California has about $5.5 billion in hand to plan, design and build the first stretch of rails for high-speed trains.

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