California’s bullet train project surged out of the station on Friday when the state Senate voted 21-16 vote in favor of bonds to begin construction.
The bill passed in the Assembly Thursday by a vote of 51-27 and now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has energetically supported it.
It will release $2.6 billion in voter-approved bonds for the proposed bullet train, and allocate another $1.9 billion for regional rail improvements in Northern and Southern California.
It will allow the state to receive $3.2 billion in federal funds to begin constructing the first rail segment in the Central Valley.
Supporters argued that high-speed rail will become increasingly necessary as the state’s growing population clogs highways and airports, that the construction project will bring jobs to the state and that the federal funding will disappear if the state doesn’t take advantage of them now.
“It’s rare that we get the opportunity to make a vote for a project that will last not only for our children, but for their children,” said Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield.
Opponents countered that project is too expensive. “We cannot afford this,” said Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin. “We have a crisis in nearly every other area of the state.”
He said the rail system will probably cost more than the $100 billion he said was currently estimated, and the state will owe at least $7 billion a year in interest and principle over 30 years.
A recent opinion poll suggested that the project could diminish voters’ enthusiasm for a November ballot initiative to raise taxes. The state has cut spending on education and healthcare recently, and will cut further if the tax measure fails.
The debate got lively coverage on Twitter: