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3 things to know about the ongoing California high-speed rail project

Conceptual photo of high-speed rail project.
Conceptual photo of high-speed rail project.
High-Speed Rail Authority

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Hop on a train here in L.A., hop off in San Francisco two hours later.

That's the promise of California's long-planned high-speed rail line. But building a track across the state, and a train that goes 220 miles per hour costs money—a lot of money.

On Tuesday, California's High Speed Rail Authority took a big step forward in financing the project.

For more on that big step and an overall update on the project, reporter Tim Sheehan with the Fresno Bee spoke with Alex Cohen.

1. The latest in funding.

"They adopted two different funding plans, which are required by the 2008 bond measure that voters passed. What these two funding plans do is they're a key to unlocking some of the bond funds to be able to match federal funds that have been allocated to this. One of the funding plans is for here in the central San Joaquin valley where they need about $2.6 billion match part of the $3 billion that the federal government has applied toward this.

Up in the San Francisco bay area between San Francisco and San Jose they want to unlock another $600 million dollars in proposition 1A money to help with the electrification of CalTrain commuter train tracks which would be shared with high speed rail trains eventually."

2. The price tag for phase one? About $64 billion. 

"For the entire phase one, what they identify as phase one which is...Los Angeles to San Francisco, they're talking about $64 billion dollars all told. To get from Bakersfield to San Jose which they're proposing as their first operating segment they're talking about $20 or $25 billion...

So, what they've identified solid funding for is San Francisco to San Jose for the Caltrans electrification and also roughly Bakersfield to Madera just north of Fresno at approximately $7 billion"

3. Who will run the trains?

"The third big action they took yesterday was authorizing the staff to seek qualifications from train operating companies to see who might eventually help guide the design of this project to maximize it for potential operations. What they want to do is make sure that as they build and design this project that it is something that is optimized for an operating company that will eventually bid to run these trains.

From there they would narrow it down and seek formal bids and they're looking at somewhere around the range of $30 million for the first stage of this contract, which would be consulting on the design of the system."

Sheehan also spoke about the next several steps in the process and one of the main roadblocks the project is facing.

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue media player above.