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High-speed rail report approved

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on November 2.)

SACRAMENTO -- California's high-speed rail board approved an environmental impact report Wednesday for the 700-mile project, moving it a step closer to reality.

The 6-0 vote clears the way for more detailed environmental reviews regarding specific routes and allows the board to begin buying rights of way if it gets funding, said Mehdi Morshed, the board's executive director.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is planning a system that would link Sacramento, San Francisco, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego with trains running at speeds of up to 220mph.

A $9.9 billion bond measure on the ballot next November would provide money to help pay for the first leg of the project, between Los Angeles and San Francisco. But an Assembly bill awaiting action by the Senate next year would delay that vote until 2008.
The environmental impact report approved Wednesday outlines the broad environmental effects created by the trains and how the board proposes to address them.

It also touts high-speed rail as less costly, more energy efficient and less environmentally damaging than expanding highways and increasing air travel.

Approval completes a process of hearings and commentary that began when the board issued a draft environmental report in January 2004. The more detailed, route-specific reviews are likely to take two or three years, Morshed said.

The route proposed by the board would run through the Central Valley from Sacramento to Bakersfield, then cut through the Tehachapi Mountains to Palmdale before heading to Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego.

There also would be lines running from Los Angeles to Irvine and from the San Francisco area to the Central Valley. The board still is considering where the San Francisco route would cut through the coastal mountains.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

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