California’s bullet-train agency is set to officially start construction in Fresno on Tuesday on the first 29-mile segment of the system, a symbol of the progress the $68-billion project has made against persistent political and legal opposition.
Over the last two years, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has prevailed in a series of court challenges to the project, won a federal exemption from state environmental rules, secured several key legislative victories that improved its future funding and made a politically savvy bet to move up by several years the inauguration of service in Southern California.
The groundbreaking will be led by Gov. Jerry Brown at the planned site of a station in downtown Fresno. Brown has made the project one of his highest priorities, investing considerable political capital in what he sees as an important part of his leadership legacy.
The concept for a California bullet train originated in Brown’s first terms as governor. Ever since, proponents have dreamed of a modern rail system that could better unite the state’s disparate regions. But moving that vision to reality has proved to be one of the most difficult and contentious political issues in recent state history.
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