SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- State lawmakers on Thursday planned to take up Gov. Jerry Brown's top infrastructure initiative for a California bullet train by considering about $4.5 billion in state financing.
The Assembly was expected to vote on a bill authorizing the first leg of the high-speed rail line that would start in the Central Valley. The measure could face a more contentious vote Friday in the Senate.
If approved, California would begin construction on the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line. The overall cost of the project from Los Angeles to San Francisco is estimated at $68 billion.
The bill would authorize selling $2.6 billion in voter-approved state bonds and allow California to tap $3.3 billion in federal grants. It also would allocate about $1.9 billion for regional transit improvements in Northern and Southern California.
The amounts have been modified as Democratic leaders craft the bill, SB1029, to entice support from as many lawmakers as possible.
In recent days, lawmakers included additional financing to help electrify Caltrain, a San Jose-San Francisco commuter line, and upgrade Metrolink's commuter lines in Southern California.
The bill authorizes the first 130-mile stretch of high-speed rail from Madera to Bakersfield.
Brown, a Democrat, has said the state needs to build new transportation infrastructure to accommodate its growing population that now stands at 37 million. The California High-Speed Rail Authority, which is managing the project, said lawmakers face a deadline this week in order to capture federal aid.
Once complete, the bullet train would connect San Francisco with Los Angeles with trains reaching speeds up to 220 mph.
It is not clear how construction after the first leg will be financed.
Critics say the project is unnecessary and too expensive, particularly as the state faces ongoing budget shortfalls. Republicans in the Legislature and Congress oppose the project and some Democratic lawmakers remain skeptical. They have suggested instead using funds to improve existing rail systems in densely populated areas, rather than start construction in the Central Valley.
Lawmakers are under pressure from labor groups that say the project is sorely needed because it will bring jobs, particularly to a region with higher-than-average unemployment. The Obama administration has threatened to rescind federal grants if the Legislature doesn't appropriate California's share of funding in the Central Valley.
The governor is counting on those federal funds and state bonds for a total of roughly $6 billion to build the first segment. California was able to secure more than expected after Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin turned down federal money.
The authority faces a September 2017 federal deadline to finish the first segment of the line.