Bullet Train Approved In California, Would Be Nation’s First

Bullet trains traveling up to 220 miles per hour could one day be jetting passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco thanks to a $4.7 billion project approved by California’s state Senate.

The legislative approval means California can move forward with its attempt to bring the first bullet train to the United States. The project still needs another $3.2 billion in matching federal funds, which have been committed through Pres. Obama’s 2009 stimulus, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The construction of the train would start in California’s Central Valley, and critics have chided it as a “train to nowhere.” The total cost of the completed project, which would run between Los Angeles and San Francisco, would be $68 billion, the Associated Press reported.

The legislature’s vote was along party lines, with Republicans and some Democrats opposing the measure and the remaining Democrats mustering just enough support to pass it, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The project’s future is uncertain as Republicans have said they will oppose future funding for the project as well.

The bullet train is suffered from a bit of bad timing in the state. Though high speed rail projects were popular just a few years ago, with 53 percent of voters approving a $10 billion bonding measure in 2008 to fund the project, public sentiment has turned against the train. A poll from a San Francisco group found that 56 percent of likely voters would now oppose the project if it were on the ballot again.

There are benefits to the project beside the ability to move passengers quickly around the state, the California High Speed Rail Authority contends. The project is expected to create 150,000 construction jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs through new commuters using the system. The bullet train would generate $2.23 billion in operating revenue with ten years, the CHRSA claims.

The bullet train would also be good for the environment. It is expected to eliminate 12 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year, the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road.