In the news

The Bakersfield Californian
Jon Cox

Supporters of California's high-speed rail project gathered in Fresno Wednesday to urge federal officials to give the state most of the $2.4 billion in bullet train money turned away in February by Florida.

Making the case that the project would provide much-needed jobs for residents of the Central Valley, event participants asked that the Federal Railroad Administration give California at least $1.44 billion of the Florida money, enough to extend the project's first segment from Merced to Bakersfield.

"Twenty-four different states have applied for that money. But we in California are ready to go. We've been ready. We have people who voted to support the project. So we are out there calling for that money," Jaafar Rizvi, a spokesman for nonprofit consumer advocacy group California Public Interest Research Group, said in an interview after the event. The 2008 voter approval he referred to authorized $9.95 billion in state bond sales.

Federal officials said they continue to review the California High-Speed Rail Authority's request earlier this month for all the money rejected by Florida.

The authority says it has access to more than $5 billion in federal and state money to build track connecting the northern border of Fresno County to an undetermined spot just north of Bakersfield starting next year. By 2020, they hope to complete a system that would run 220-mph trains between Anaheim and San Francisco.

Among Wednesday's speakers were rail authority board member and developer Tom Richards; John Hernandez, executive director of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Lee Ann Eager, chief operating officer of the Fresno Economic Development Corp.

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