Calif. breaking ground on GOP-opposed high-speed railway

California officials are planning to break ground on a controversial high-speed railway that has drawn sharp opposition from Republicans in the Golden State and Washington. 

Republicans in Congress have sought to prohibit federal money from being spent on the California high-speed railway, which has already received about $3 billion from the Obama administration since 2009. 

Despite the congressional opposition, California officials are planning to hold a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday to “commemorate the start of sustained construction on the nation’s first high-speed rail system at a ceremonial groundbreaking in Fresno,” according to the state’s High Speed Rail Authority.

The proposed California high-speed rail plan has become a lightning rod for conservatives in Washington and the Golden State. GOP opponents of the proposal, which would link San Francisco, Los Angeles and other major cities if it is fully built, cite reports that emerged in 2011 that the cost of building the line have increased from $33 billion to $98 billion.

Critics have also panned proposals for the initial leg of the high-speed railway to run between the relatively small towns of Madera and Bakersfield in lieu of major cities that are being reserved for future extensions. The initial leg of the railway is expected to cost $6 billion to build. 

Republicans have criticized California officials for failing to identify a definitive funding source for the remainder of the construction cost that would be incurred if the full railway is built. 

The California high-speed rail project has received more than $3 billion from the Obama administration, which was mostly funded with money from the 2009 economic stimulus package. That’s more than any other state included in the president’s vision of a nationwide network of railways; he said would eventually connect 80 percent of Americans.

The state of California has approved an additional $2.6 billion in state funding for the inital leg of the proposed railway, which would run 220-miles-per-hour trains on an 800-mile route if it is ultimately constructed.

Most of the other large projects in Obama’s proposal were shuttered when Republican governors in states like Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin rejected money from the administration. California has proceeded with its rail plans, however, and the state has been awarded some of the rejected money from other states.

California Republicans in Congress attempted as recently as December to stop any more federal funding from going to the state’s high-speed railway. 

“Originally approved in 2008 by voters of California, the project has been modified significantly so that it no longer meets the demands originally laid out by voters,” a group of California lawmakers, led by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), wrote in a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) when Congress was considering a spending measure that covers most of 2015.

“Indeed, a majority of California voters no longer support the project as they have watched the cost balloon from $33 billion to over $100 billion before the scope has trimmed to bring the current figure to $68 billion," the California GOP lawmakers continued. 

The California High Speed Authority said Tuesday’s groundbreaking would be attended by “government, community, transportation, business and labor leaders,” however.