CA: Assembly approves high-speed rail

The California Assembly on Thursday approved legislation that would authorize the state to begin selling about $4.5 billion in state bonds for the nation's first high-speed rail system, taking an initial step toward the ambitious $68 billion project that Gov. Jerry Brown hopes will be a part of his legacy.

Lawmakers approved SB1029 on a 51-27 vote Thursday afternoon, with Republicans opposing it, sending the legislation to the state Senate, where it is expected to face a more contentious vote Friday.

The bill paves the way for California to begin selling $2.6 billion in voter-approved bonds and allocates another $1.9 billion for regional rail improvements in Northern and Southern California, and allows the state to tap $3.2 billion in federal grants to start construction of the first segment in the Central Valley.

Democrats framed the debate as a choice between investing in the state's future transportation needs or getting mired in the politics of the day. The bill authorizes the first 130-mile stretch of high-speed rail from Madera to Bakersfield.

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