The bullet train may be back on track. Earlier this month the state legislature narrowly approved $8 billion dollars in bond money to start construction of the high-speed rail system connecting Los Angeles to the Bay Area. Governor Jerry Brown signed off at ceremonies in LA and San Francisco.
The project is now expected to cost close to $69 billion dollars to complete. The bulk of the money the legislature just approved will go to start building a 130-mile stretch of track in the Central Valley; about a quarter will go to local transportation projects in LA and San Francisco.
Governor Jerry Brown gave high-speed rail the official green light today, signing legislation authorizing $8 billion in initial funding for the controversial $68 billion project.
Signing ceremonies in San Francisco and Los Angeles emphasized the political importance of the $1.9 billion allocated for improving existing commuter rail systems in these cities, the eventual “bookends” of the rail network that would connect northern and southern California.
The California State Senate today narrowly authorized funding for the nation’s biggest high-speed rail plan.
This vote authorizes initial funding for the bullet train, with construction set to begin in the Central Valley. It also provides close to $2 billion to upgrade Caltrain, and commuter rail lines in Los Angeles.
The senate vote was mostly along party lines, with Democrats supporting the plan and Republicans opposing, but several powerful Democrats crossed the aisle, including the chair of the transportation committee, Mark DeSaulnier.
In the past six weeks, five people have died on Caltrain tracks, hit by trains that could not stop in time to avoid them. Every year, an average of 12 people die on Caltrain tracks, and most are suicides. This is a small percentage of suicide deaths each year – only about one percent of suicides in the U.S. are by train.
Caltrain has built 10-foot fences along much of the route, commissioned studies about location and prevention, put up signs with suicide hotline numbers along its tracks, and partnered with mental health agencies. But it is a tragic problem that persists.