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Fresno County in the High Speed Rail limelight!

At the EDC's Economic Profile & Annual Event last Thursday, the US Department of Transportaion announced that it would award $715 million dollars for the development of California's high-speed rail system. One week after the successful event, federal officials have clarified that the ENTIRETY of the $4.3 billion federal funds California has received so far MUST be spent in one of the two Central Valley sections of the project: Fresno to Merced or Fresno to Bakersfield!

EDC President, Steve Geil stated "It's easy to understand. The whole community has been focused on High Speed Rail for the last two years. So it's obvious...Fresno WORKS!"

The following related article was posted by Business Street Online today:

"Federal Funding for High-Speed Rail Goes to Central Valley"

Fresno, CA (Nov. 4, 2010) – On the heels of last week’s announcement of an extra $715 million in funding to be used for the development of California’s high-speed rail system, federal officials have stated that all of the money California has received for the project so far must be spent in one of the two Central Valley project sections.

The result will mean a hefty $4.3 billion in infrastructure investment will be targeted somewhere between the Merced and Bakersfield area; in either the segment from Merced to Fresno or the one between Fresno and Bakersfield.  The total funding comes from the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Jan. 2010 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal funding award, with matching state funds, as well as the recent $715 million with an additional 30 percent from the state.

“The Central Valley is indeed key to creating the core of a true high-speed rail system in California, as that is where our trains will travel truly high speeds of 220 miles per hour,” said California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark in a release.  “But no matter where we start building, the goal remains the same:  a statewide high-speed rail system up and running in 2020 connecting the   Bay Area with the metropolitan area of Los Angeles and Anaheim, that creates thousands of jobs, improves air quality, and provides us all with a cheaper, faster and more convenient way to travel.”

Van Ark learned of the funding through a letter received Wednesday from Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo.  Last week, Szabo attended a high-speed rail event put on by the
Economic Development Corporation serving Fresno County that attracted 800 attendees.  President and CEO of the EDC Steve Geil said he was unsure whether Szabo’s visit inspired the letter to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

“I don’t know, but it was a great opportunity for Administrator Szabo to see the support that has been amassed in Fresno County and the Central Valley for high-speed rail,” Geil said.

Geil also commented on what the funds will mean for the Central Valley.

“It’s going to obviously be easier for us to move forward, and the $4.3 billion from the government does not count those funds that will have to be leveraged from the state,” Geil said.  “So we can be assured, frankly, of high-speed rail in Fresno in the very shortcoming.”

The 800-mile system will stretch for 800 miles, better connecting areas of the state.  Fresno County could be the site of the system’s heavy maintenance facility, which would create 1,500 jobs with starting salaries at about $50,000 per year.  Other counties lobbying for the facility are Kern and Merced.

“Today is a monumental day for the economy of the Central Valley,” said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.  “The magnitude of this investment will provide tremendous benefits to Fresno and all of our neighboring communities.  And, it will secure the Valley’s position as a leader in the development of the next generation of transportation technology for America.”

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