U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood joined Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer in Washington today to announce the granting of $2.25 billion in stimulus money for the state’s high-speed rail project.

The money is part of $8 billion awarded to states across the country as part of President Obama’s plan to develop a nationwide network of high-speed rail service.

In October, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger submitted an application for $4.7 billion in federal stimulus funds, and the state was awarded roughly half of that total.

Along with the $2.25 billion for the high-speed rail project, California also is receiving $23 million for four new station tracks at San Jose’s Diridon Station, $51 million for work on the Amtrak corridor in San Diego, and $20 million to fund upgrades to trains’ emissions control equipment.

LaHood said the money will help bring about “a new era in transportation,” and compared it to the interstate highway system started by President Eisenhower more than a half-century ago.

“High-speed rail holds the same promise, and will create new jobs and a revitalized manufacturing base while reducing our dependence on oil and harmful emissions,” he said.

Feinstein said she has pushed for high-speed rail in California as far back as when she ran for governor in 1990. Twenty years later, she said, “it’s finally, finally, finally going to happen.”

She said the new funds for the project will translate into tens of thousands of jobs for California, and “since unemployment rates have been skyrocketing, it’s very, very welcome to us.”

Groundbreaking on the project, for which voters approved $9.95 billion in bond money in November 2008, is expected in 2012.

Feinstein said the federal government will be negotiating with the California High-Speed Rail Authority on which portion of the project will receive the stimulus money first.

The Bay Area portion of the project has proven contentious, with some Peninsula cities and conservation groups challenging the rail authority’s decision of the Pacheco Pass as the route for trains to enter the Bay Area from the Central Valley.

In December, the CHSRA board rescinded its approval of an environmental impact report on the section of the project between Gilroy and San Jose after an October court ruling that found its analysis was insufficient in terms of right-of-way issues on Union Pacific railroad tracks and the effects of vibrations on the area immediately surrounding the corridor.

The environmental review has to be completed by September 2011 to be eligible for the stimulus money.

The high-speed rail project would create an electrified system of bullet trains that would eventually run from Sacramento and San Francisco down to Los Angeles and San Diego.

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