California bids for bulk of fed high-speed rail funds

The state’s leaders argue California deserves the majority of the $8bn set-aside because its ambitious 800 mile line is further along in planning than any other high-speed rail corridor. The deadline for applications for the federal stimulus dollars was 2 October.

California has submitted a bid for $4.7 billion of federal funds for high-speed rail, arguing that its “unrivaled” support for high-speed rail entitles it to a majority of the $8 billion Congress set aside for such projects in the economic stimulus bill.

California high speed rail:
seeking stimulus funds to
make the vision a reality

California said in a statement that the $4.7 billion would enable $10 billion of investment in the state’s ambitious 800-mile network of high-speed trains capable of carrying passengers at upwards of 200 miles per hour. Contributions from state, local and private sources of capital are expected to make up the remaining $5.3 billion.

“Unlike any other state, we can double the value of the federal dollars with matching funds,” Curt Pringle, chairman of the board of California’s High-Speed Rail Authority, said in a statement.

The state's portion of the matching funds will come from the $10 billion of bonding capacity California voters approved last year to help meet the $40 billion price tag of the entire system. Private and local matching funds will offset the state's contribution as construction progresses on the high speed rail line, Kris Deutschman, a spokesperson for the authority, told InfrastructureInvestor.

Asked where the private sector capital would come from, Deutschman said that would be determined once specific contractors and investors are chosen to deliver the projects. She added that last year about 30 private companies responded to a request for expressions of interest about California's high-speed rail project. These included construction firms Acciona, Balfour Beatty, Bouyguyes and Fluor; systems and equipment providers Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens; equity investors The Carlyle Group and Meridiam Infrastructure; investment banks Babcock & Brown and Goldman Sachs.

Projects funded by the federal stimulus funds would have to start by 2012 and be completed by 2017, according to federal regulations. Pringle said California's high-speed rail is further along in planning than any other similar project in the country and can begin construction before the 2012 deadline.

California has been planning its high-speed rail network for 13 years, according to Deutschman.

The Federal Railroad Administration has designated 10 high-speed rail corridors across the US, including one linking major cities in the Midwest and others in the Pacific Northwest, Northeast and Southwest. Friday, 2 October marked the application for the $8 billion of stimulus funding for these projects, though all states were able to apply for the money.

A spokesperson for the Federal Railroad Administration said the agency does not yet have any aggregate figures on how many applications were received or how much money they sought.

Of the additional $4.7 billion requested by California, $2.2 billion would go toward building a high speed rail line from Los Angeles to Anaheim, $980 million for a line from San Francisco to San Jose, $1.9 billion for two separate lines between Merced and Bakersfield and $276.5 million for preliminary engineering and environmental work in all segments.

California expects to generate 600,000 construction-related jobs throughout the life of the project.