California Proves Big Things Are Still Possible


Squeeeeee! We're getting high speed rail here in California!!!! To say that I'm giddy with excitement would be an understatement. It wasn't certain that the vote would go our way, so it's with a huge sigh of relief that I share this with you:

A divided state Senate approved billions of dollars in funding to start construction on California's ambitious high-speed rail line Friday, handing the controversial project $7.9 billion in state and federal money for the first 130 miles of track and a series of local transit upgrades.

The funding measure, which was easily approved in the Assembly Thursday, will now head to Gov. Jerry Brown, who pushed lawmakers to approve it. In all, the Legislature this week authorized the issuance of $4.6 billion in state bond funds - about half of the $9.9 billion approved by voters in 2008 - and opened the door for California to obtain $3.3 billion in federal grants, for a total of $7.9 billion.

It was a key vote: Federal transportation officials had warned that if the money were not made available this summer, they would yank the $3.3 billion in stimulus funds and give it to other states.

And it was a tough win for Democratic leaders, who weren't sure by midday if they had the votes to pass the measure, which got the bare minimum of 21 votes, all of them Democrats. But some in the party refused to support the plan.

Had this project been deep-sixed, I would have read it as a sign that the state who pioneered Big Things in the 50s and 60s had lost its will to do anything to improve life and commerce here. It's not the whole banana by a long shot, but it's a darn good start.

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