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High-speed rail construction begins in California with an uncertain future

(Source: Associated Press, October 20, 2013)

FRESNO, Calif. — Trucks loaded with tomatoes, milk and almonds clog the two main highways that bisect California's farm heartland, carrying goods to millions along the Pacific coast and beyond. This dusty stretch of land is the starting point for one of the nation's most expensive public infrastructure projects: a $68bn high-speed rail system that would span the state, linking America's salad bowl to more jobs, opportunity and buyers.

Five years ago, California voters overwhelmingly approved a bullet train for the nation's most populous state. It would be America's first high-speed rail system, sold to the public as a way to improve access to well-paying jobs, cut pollution from smog-filled roadways, reduce time sitting in traffic, and provide an alternative to high fuel prices.

Now, engineering work has finally begun on the first 30-mile segment of track in Fresno, a city of 500,000 people with soaring unemployment and a withering downtown. Rail is meant to help this place, with construction jobs and improved access to opportunities once the job is complete. But the region that could benefit most from the project is also where opposition has grown most fierce.

Full story: The Guardian

Monday, October 21, 2013

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