July 6, 2012 / 11:05 PM / in 5 years

California Senate gives green light to high speed rail plan

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - The California state Senate gave a nod of approval to the state’s high speed rail plan on Friday in a make-or-break vote that would provide funding to start construction on a project whose overall cost has been pegged at $68 billion.

The project, expected to take decades to complete, was championed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who says a bullet train network will boost job creation and provide an alternative to car and plane travel in the country’s most populous state.

Unions also lobbied hard for what amounts to the most ambitious public works project to date in California, which has a 10.8 percent unemployment rate. Republicans opposed it, saying the project would be a massive financial burden for the state.

But in a 21-16 vote, the state Senate approved the issuance of $2.6 billion in state bonds that would unlock $3.2 billion in funds from Washington to build a Central Valley track.

The plan, which passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly by a 51-27 vote on Thursday, would also spend more than $2 billion in a mix of federal, state and local funds on rail projects in urban areas to prepare to link them to a statewide system.

Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Marguerita Choy and Lisa Shumaker

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