California will begin construction this week on the first part of a high-speed rail system that will eventually connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. In a press release published last week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority said work on the network will officially begin on Tuesday after a ceremonial groundbreaking in the city of Fresno. The first 29-mile segment will be built in the Central Valley in order to begin testing the system. When the $68 billion project is completed, passengers will be able to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under three hours.
Funding and land rights remain uncertain
This week's ceremony comes after years of delays and legal battles over the system, which has proven to be a divisive issue among California's political leadership. Construction was supposed to began two years ago, but was delayed over land acquisitions and disputes over funding. The system is now set to be completed by 2028, though as the Los Angeles Times reports, officials still need to secure full funding, and Republicans in Congress have said they will not commit federal money to it.
Yet state authorities remain confident that financing will be secured, whether through the federal government or real estate development rights, noting that the project will be harder to stop once construction is underway. Supporters also believe the long-term benefits will ultimately outweigh its steep costs. "High-speed rail brings attention and focus back to city centers," Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin tells the Times. "It is going to be easier for people to live in the middle of the state and do business elsewhere."