Not everyone on board with Calif. rail plan

(CBS News) SAN FRANCISCO - Putting people to work in California, where unemployment is over 10 percent, is an idea behind the high-speed rail project the California legislature approved Friday. But with the state's finances heavily in the red, not everyone is on board.

The sleek animation shows what high-speed rail travel in California could look like in 20 years or so. Trains moving at up to 220 miles an hour carrying passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in just two hours and 40 minutes.

But this optimistic vision of California's bullet train future clashed with the reality of the state's current budget deficit when the State Senate Friday night narrowly approved spending $ 7.9 billion on the first stage of the rail project.

California OKs funding for high-speed rail line

Republican State Senator Tony Strickland voted against it: "This bill is spending money we just simply don't have here in California."

But California had to agree to put its own money into the project to get $3.3 billion in federal stimulus funds. Democratic State Senate President Darrell Steinberg struggled to get enough votes.

"I think what we did today is going to be seen over many years as a turning point in California," he said.

The Senate vote covers only about one-tenth of the $70 billion or so the project is eventually expected to cost. In 2008, California voters approved spending close to $10 billion on the first phase of high-speed rail.

An opinion poll then showed 52 percent support for the project. But support now has dropped to 39 percent as Californians have watched the state's budget problems deepen.

"I don't know if it's exactly what I would want to spend extra tax money on right now," said one woman. "I'd be more interested in education to be honest."

And while the animation shows bullet trains arriving in busy city centers, the first stage will be built through largely agricultural land in California's central valley, which has led critics to call this "the train to nowhere."

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.

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