High-speed rail chief touts deal to invest $1 billion in SoCal rail

Courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority

Southern California transportation agencies are close to sealing a deal that would reap $1 billion of state money to upgrade local rail lines.

It's part of the revised business plan for the state’s high speed rail network. California’s High Speed Rail Authority signed off on the provisional deal just hours before a public hearing in the Bay Area Tuesday night.

Over the next eight to 10 years, the California High Speed Rail authority would funnel $1 billion to transportation agencies in Southern California. The agency’s chair Dan Richard told three state senators and an audience of hundreds of Bay Area residents that the deal solves one of the biggest problem with the high-speed rail plan: the decision to build the first segment in the Central Valley.

"The disposition of all the funds to the valley segment meant that no money was being invested in the urban areas — the so-called “bookends,” Richard said.

Under a memorandum of understanding with the Southern California Association of Governments and through them many transportation agencies, the High Speed Rail Authority would fund local transportation improvements out of $9 billion dollars in bond funds — Prop 1A transportation funds — or act as conduit for federal funds.

"This would be very, very important in accelerating investments in that region that not only can improve transportation systems today, but lay the foundation for laying high speed rail tomorrow," Richard said.

Like upgrades to the Los Angeles Metrolink commuter rail system that would connect it to the high speed rail system. The High Speed Rail Authority’s Dan Richard says he’s working on a similar deal to bring $1 billion in upgrades to the San Francisco Bay Area to electrify Caltrain.

Getting both ends of the high speed rail network invested could shore up flagging support for a project that’s doubled in cost since voters approved billions in seed funds just a few years ago.

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