LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Gov. Jerry Brown visited Union Station Wednesday to sign into law a bill that will provide funding for the first phase of a high-speed rail project expected to connect the Southland with San Francisco.
The bill, approved by the state Legislature July 6, also includes millions of dollars for rail projects in the Los Angeles area.
"There are those who can't see the future, because their head is in the sand. I say the future is right here in Union Station and building outward," Brown said. "In amidst of this recession, we're putting thousands of people to work."
According to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the legislation will provide nearly $110 million for the downtown regional connector, an underground light rail that will enable riders to get around Los Angeles County without having to transfer to different trains. Funds will also be available to pay for other rail-infrastructure projects in the area.
The bill includes nearly $8 billion in rail funding, $2.6 billion in rail bonds passed by California voters in 2008, and $3.2 billion in federal money for a 130-mile stretch of track from Madera to Bakersfield. It also includes $2 billion in funding for projects in the Bay Area and L.A. County.
Supporters say the project will create thousands of construction jobs, but critics argue the estimated $68 billion project has nearly doubled in cost and changed significantly from the plan voters approved in 2008. The original price tag was $40 billion.
The High-Speed Rail Authority scaled the plan down to upgrade and use existing rail infrastructure around Los Angeles and San Francisco rather than build new track in the metro areas.
"Closing schools for three weeks while spending $8 billion on 130 miles of train tracks defies logic and is irresponsible," said Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar.
The Legislature's approval was a victory for Brown, who pushed hard for the project. The governor called the vote a "bold action" that will create jobs and put "California out in front once again."
Brown will hold a second signing ceremony in San Francisco later in the afternoon.
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