The US state of California has approved an $8bn financing plan, including voter-approved bonds and federal funding, for the first stage of its $68bn high-speed rail project.
The approval authorises the state to raise $4.5bn by selling bonds as part of the $10bn proposition 1A package, previously backed by voters in 2008.
Of the preliminary $4.5bn tranche, $2.6bn will be used to build an initial 130-mile track of the high-speed rail line in California's central valley between Madera and Bakersfield.
Upon completion, the line will eventually link San Francisco and San Diego, via Los Angeles, with a further spur line in Northern California to Sacramento. Travel time for the 438-mile journey is expected to take two hours and 38 minutes.
California High-Speed Rail Authority chair Dan Richard said that the Legislature's action sets in motion a state-wide rail modernisation plan for California.
"Not only will California be the first state in the nation to build a high-speed rail system to connect our urban centres, we will also modernise and improve rail systems at the local and regional level," Richard said.
"This plan will improve mobility for commuters and travellers alike, reduce emissions and put thousands of people to work, while enhancing our economic competitiveness."
The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) approved environmental impact studies in May 2012 for a 65km initial section of rail line to be built from Merced to Fresno.
In April 2012, the CHSRA permitted a revised business plan that will provide a high-speed rail service in the state within ten years, while reducing costs by $30bn.
Under the new business proposal, the CHSRA plans to reduce costs by upgrading existing commuter and freight lines in some areas instead of building new tracks.
Image: The initial 130-mile link of the California high-speed rail line between Madera and Bakersfield will eventually connect San Francisco and San Diego, via Los Angeles. Photo: courtesy of CHSRA.