The federal government on Wednesday approved the start of construction for California's $69 billion high-speed rail line, capping years of planning on the first leg of tracks in the Central Valley and possibly kicking off a new round of lawsuits from opponents.
The state has been eagerly awaiting the Federal Railroad Administration's endorsement of the Merced-to-Fresno section of the bullet train line in the months since Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature gave the go-ahead. The Brown and Obama administrations are splitting the cost of the initial line and jointly planning the route.
Even though Congress and Obama previously approved funding for the bullet train, federal officials still needed to ensure the project passed federal environmental laws. Wednesday's 41-page ruling affirms that while the project will have some negative impacts on the environment, it's still worthwhile.