Construction on America’s first high-speed rail system just officially began in Fresno, California! The nation’s most expensive public infrastructure project (estimated to cost $68 billion) is predicted to cut pollution, reduce traffic congestion and improve access to jobs – but not all California business owners and residents are supportive. Although the new bullet trains will transport passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in only two hours and 40 minutes (compared to six hours by car), critics warn that the costs outweigh the benefits.

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Since it was originally approved by California voters five years ago, the project went through several cost adjustments – from $45 billion in 2008 to the current price tag of $68 billion – and the construction start date was repeatedly postponed. After multiple compromises following political circumstances and the housing market collapse, city officials scaled back the plans.

To facilitate the project, authorities started buying up property in the Central Valley, reportedly offering sums that are too low for local businesses and land owners. This, along with conflicting information provided to the locals over the years, created an atmosphere of mistrust and discontent among inhabitants and the general public.

Supporters of the project believe that the new high-speed rail system will be highly beneficial to the state’s economy. It is expected to create hundreds of jobs and offset the carbon footprint of California’s infrastructure.

The Obama administration promised $3.2 billion for the first phase of the project, which covers only a small part of the overall cost, the remainder of which will possibly have to be paid by California taxpayers. Republicans in Congress have fought to block further federal funding of the project and governors in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida decided to back out of plans for a similar infrastructural endeavor in their states.

Via The Guardian

Images courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority