High-speed rail funding poised for approval


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Even though Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers failed this week to reach a deal on public worker pensions, the Legislature may be ready to approve billions of dollars in spending on high-speed rail and related projects.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) told reporters on Tuesday that lawmakers would vote on the funding this week.


Legislative approval would be a victory for Brown, who has championed high-speed rail despite uniform opposition from Republicans and scattered concerns among Democrats.

Brown has planned to start the project with 130 miles of rail in the Central Valley, stretching from Bakersfield to Madera. But some Democratic state senators have suggested it would be better to start in wealthier, more-populous areas such as San Francisco or Los Angeles.

‘We are close. It’s a tight vote,’ Steinberg said, later adding, ‘We’re working to get the votes.’

Steinberg said lawmakers will vote on $5.8 billion for the Central Valley track -- $2.6 billion from state bonds and $3.2 billion in federal funds. Another $815 million would help local transit systems connect to high-speed rail in Southern and Northern California.

There’s also more money to help sweeten the pot for skeptical lawmakers. Steinberg said he expected $1.1 billion would be dished out to other rail projects, such as electrifying the Caltrain system in the Bay Area to allow the use of more efficient train engines.

‘The proposal now is much more than high-speed rail. It’s also making a dramatic investment in improving transportation infrastructure throughout the state,’ Steinberg said.

The Obama administration and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) have been pressuring California state lawmakers to approve the funding. The state has already missed the June 30 deadline set by the federal government.


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-- Patrick McGreevey and Chris Megerian in Sacramento