State seeks stimulus funds for bullet train



California officials on Friday applied for $4.7 billion in federal stimulus money to build an 800-mile bullet train system from San Diego to San Francisco.

Supporters say that if built, the train could whisk people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes, create hundreds of thousands of jobs and bring in billions of dollars in revenue.

At a news conference at Union Station in Los Angeles, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he is a high-speed rail “fanatic” and asserted the project would provide a $10 billion economic boost to the state.

“I think it is disgraceful for America to be so far behind when it comes to infrastructure,’’ Schwarzenegger said. “In Europe and Asian countries, they’re traveling now up to 300 miles (per hour on bullet trains) while we’re traveling on our trains at the same speed as 100 years ago. That is inexcusable. America must catch up.”

Schwarzenegger said California deserved to get more than half of the $8 billion in federal stimulus money set aside for high-speed rail development because it is further along in planning than other states and is ready to break ground in 2011, a year before the federal deadline for getting the money.

La Jollan Lynn Schenk, a member of the San Diego-based Authority Board and former congresswoman, said, “The dream that began in 1994, when President Clinton signed my legislation into law, identifying the route from San Diego through the Central Valley as an official high speed train planning corridor, is closer than ever to becoming a reality for California.”

She added that “the section between Los Angeles and San Diego via the Inland Empire presents a vital high-speed transit connection given the growth of the Inland Empire and congestion on I-15.”

Escondido Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler, Chair of the San Diego Association of Governments Board of Directors stated that this initiative helps accomplish three of San Diego’s region-wide goals. “It spurs our economy, it improves our transportation system, and it helps the environment,” said Pfeiler. “A recent study shows that high-speed rail would create 45,000 jobs in San Diego, lower auto travel demand by more than 9 percent, and cut travel times on our freeways.

In November, California voters approved issuing $9.95 billion in bonds to fund construction of high-speed rail. More money would come from state, local and private matching funds.

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, who is also the High Speed Rail Authority board chairman, said the proposed project would create nearly 130,000 jobs as soon as ground was broken.

Throughout construction, it is expected to generate up to 600,000 temporary jobs, and boosters say it would create 450,000 permanent jobs statewide.

California is seeking:

-- $276.5 million for preliminary engineering and environmental work for all system segments including Los Angeles to San Diego via the Inland Empire, Los Angeles to Palmdale and Bakersfield, Sacramento to Merced and Altamont Rail Corridor. Projected jobs to be created: 12,000.

-- $2.19 billion for Los Angeles to Anaheim to fund high-speed train facilities at Los Angeles Union Station, Norwalk Station and the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center. Projected jobs to be created: 53,700.

-- $980 million for San Francisco to San Jose. Projected jobs to be created: 34,200.

-- $466 million for Merced to Fresno. Projected jobs to be created: 10,500.

-- $819.5 million for Fresno to Bakersfield. Projected jobs to be created: 16,500.