The groundbreaking comes more than six years after voters approved $9.9 billion in bonds for the $68 billion project. Construction is starting two years later than the state had promised. It faces lawsuits from Central Valley farmers and opposition from Congressional Republicans who have called it a boondoggle.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has yet to line up the funds needed to complete the system. Kevin Dayton traveled from Monterey to Fresno to protest the project.
“We’ve no idea how it’s going to be paid for. Most of the money is going to be borrowed, that will have to be paid back by future generations with interest," says Dayton. "We don’t think this is even what voters approved back in 2008. That was a $45 billion entire system.”
But at the groundbreaking, Governor Jerry Brown downplayed the opposition.
Brown told the crowd that all big projects run into pusillanimous opposition.
“All of these projects are a little bit touch and go all the way because you’ll always have critics, 'Why spend the money?'" he said. "My inclination is not to spend a thing, but on the other hand, I like trains, I like clean air.”
Brown has made the project one of his top priorities.
“We’ve been able to build things. It’s not just about talk. It’s not just about legislation. It’s about men and women in hardhats actually making stuff. It’s complicated," said Brown. "And yes, it may fail. It may even get rusty, it may even get the wrong bolts occasionally but we can fix them, and it will be around for a hundred years.”
The 220 mile per hour train will link Los Angeles to San Francisco. The system is expected to start running in the early 2020’s.