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UPDATE 1-California expects to compete for billions in high-speed rail funding

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WASHINGTON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - California plans to compete for billions in funding for rail projects in a new $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that was introduced in the U.S. Senate.

“This is a once in a lifetime investment in rail. We see somewhere between $20-30 billion in funding we can compete in to get funds for the California high-speed rail project, and that’s what we intend to do,” said Melissa Figueroa, a spokeswoman for California’s high speed rail authority.

In June, President Joe Biden’s administration restored a $929 million grant for California’s high-speed rail. Former President Donald Trump in 2019 had pulled funding for the project hobbled by extensive delays and rising costs, calling it a “disaster.”

Biden, a Democrat, strongly supports high-speed rail and has vowed to ensure the United States “has the cleanest, safest, and fastest rail system in the world.”

California bills its system as the first U.S. high-speed rail project and aims to complete it in the 2030s. The cost was estimated at $80 billion in 2020 but could ultimately be as high as $99.8 billion.

California has said the train system will travel from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin at speeds capable of over 200 miles per hour (322 kph) by 2033.

California voters approved the initial $10 billion bond for the project in 2008, and $3.5 billion in federal money was allocated two years later. California previously received $2.5 billion.

The project is under construction on the first 119-mile section in California’s Central Valley with 35 active job sites. The authority said it expects to have trains on the ground testing by mid-decade and in passenger service by 2029. (Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)

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