The Los Angeles City Council called today for state lawmakers to release bond money approved by voters in 2008 to help fund the first phase of a high-speed rail system through the Central Valley.
The council unanimously approved a motion by Councilman Tom LaBonge urging state legislators to authorize construction of the first phase of the rail system and issue the bonds to pay for the construction.
An updated business plan puts the project's price tag at close to $68.4 billion. It calls for upgrading existing rail lines in Southern California to allow for faster trains, and allowing the first phase of the rail system to reach the San Fernando Valley.
Supporters say a high-speed rail system would create badly needed construction jobs and would eventually alleviate congested highways between the Bay Area and Southern California.
Opponents say the project's cost remains well above the $10 billion voters approved in 2008 to pay for it. Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, is seeking to block the Legislature from issuing the bonds through a ballot initiative.
"With this revised business plan, we will see a statewide rail system developed faster and for less money, with trains capable of running 220 miles per hour gliding through the San Joaquin Valley and into the San Fernando Valley by 2022," LaBonge said.
"In order to stay on this timeline and put laborers back to work as early as next year, the Legislature must release Prop 1A funds to match (federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) monies," he said.
California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard briefed the council on the project, which he said would eventually move people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under two hours and 40 minutes.
"We don't believe it's a luxury for California," Richard told the council. "With the population growing in our state, we have to determine how we're going to move the millions of people who are going to be here over the next decades around. Our transportation systems are already overburdened."