At groundbreaking, California trades union head calls high-speed rail construction ā€œgreatest infrastructure projectā€ in U.S. history

Updated Jan 8, 2015

California High-Speed Rail

Despite years of controversy and wondering where the money to fund its construction would come from, ground was officially broken Tuesday on Californiaā€™s first high-speed rail line in Fresno.

Expected to be completed by 2029, trains on the $68 billion railroad will travel at speeds up to 200 miles per hour, spanning 520 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under three hours.

According to a report from the L.A. Times, Gov. Jerry Brown declared Fresno the ā€œnationā€™s high-speed rail capital and the ā€˜central cogā€™ of a new transportation system.ā€ Brown emphasized the importance of the trainā€™s ability to more quickly connect the southern and northern halves of the giant state.

With more than a dozen construction workers gathered around the podium at the groundbreaking, Robbie Hunter, Californiaā€™s director of the building trades union council, said the project would create 66,000 construction jobs over the next 16 years. Hunter said the line is the ā€œgreatest infrastructure project, not only in the history of California, but the nation,ā€ the Times reports.

The project needed a lot of help since its inception six years ago in reaching the groundbreaking, including voter approval of a $9 billion bond measure in 2008, the Obama administrationā€™s addition of $3.2 billion in grants and the California legislatureā€™s decision to provide the project with 25 percent of the stateā€™s future greenhouse gas feesā€”up to $1 billion a year.

However, there is still much opposition to the project, especially among those who remain unconvinced the state can come up with all of the necessary funding over the next two decades.

Plus, many believe the project will far exceed its $68 billion budget, the Times reports. Should that happen, securing extra funding could be especially difficult when considering that the project likely wonā€™t receive any more federal funding now that Congressional Republicansā€”who have ā€œvowedā€ not to provide more fundingā€”control both the House and the Senate.