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Reduced Price Tag May Revive Plans For Calif. High-Speed Rail

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Commuters in the Southland who have long hoped for a faster way to San Jose — or San Francisco, Sacramento or any other city in the state — may have reason for renewed hope on Monday.

The state board responsible for overseeing the planning and construction of a proposed high-speed rail project is set to update its estimates after the plan was nearly derailed last fall over ballooning cost projections.

“I do think that the plan will address many of the issues people have raised about the funding, the timing, and whether we can really make it happen,” said Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard.

The proposed railway would have over 800 miles of track traveling to as many as 24 stations and would zip commuters from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours.

“We have found that we don’t need to build our own set of tracks the entire way, we can use some of the existing tracks and that saves us a lot of money,” said Richard.

Richard added that the rail would also create as many as 450,000 permanent new jobs throughout the state over the estimated 20 years it would take to complete the entire rail line.

But despite the decades-long timeline, Richard said the benefits of the railway would become evident relatively soon after it becomes operational.

“Twenty years is when we get to the ultimate objective, but in the meantime, we start this year making improvements in rail systems in L.A., in San Francisco,” he said. “We’re going to be starting right away with lots of investments that have early benefits for people.”

“It would be quite a financial strain to place $68 billion upon tax payers. It’s a great idea, but it’s too expensive,” traveler Martravious Bickers said.

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to present the revised projections to lawmakers in Sacramento in coming weeks to appropriate $2.3 billion in rail bonds to begin constructing the first phase by year’s end.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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