Our View: $715M shows confidence in rail for Valley

The momentum for high-speed rail continues to build in the San Joaquin Valley, and the latest federal grant of $715 million is just more evidence that California's bullet train is committed to the Valley.

The Federal Rail Administration money is part of $902 million that has just been allocated to the California project. Earlier this year, the California High-Speed Rail Authority received more than $2 billion in federal stimulus funds for its high-speed rail program.

With the latest funding, and matching funds from the high-speed rail bond voters passed in 2008, construction could begin in 2012.

Last week's announcement was especially important for the Valley, which is the likely home of the system's heavy maintenance facility. Merced is competing with Fresno other Valley communities for the maintenance yard.

This project would be an economic game-changer for the Valley, which badly needs jobs. An analysis by the state rail authority estimates that as many as 600,000 construction jobs would be needed to build the project over the next decade, with as many as 135,000 of those jobs in the Valley.

It turned out to be an important week for high-speed rail in the Valley. On Thursday, several high-profile rail officials were in Fresno for the Economic Development Corp.'s economic summit on high-speed rail.

In presenting a ceremonial check to Valley officials, Federal Rail Administrator Joseph Szabo made it very clear that the entire amount must be used for construction either between Merced and Fresno or between Fresno and Bakersfield -- or not at all.

We, of course, believe the Merced to Fresno section would be best.

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, first made the announcement of the grant on Monday with press conferences and press releases.

The naysayers are still out there, but their timid voices are being drowned out by visionary Californians.

We would never have built the state water system, highway system or university system if the naysayers had been in charge when those projects were proposed.

With this infusion of federal money, the dream is looking more real.

Editorials are the opinion of the Merced Sun-Star editorial board. Members of the editorial board include Publisher Debra Kuykendall, Executive Editor Mike Tharp, Editorial Page Editor Keith Jones, Copy Desk Chief Jesse Chenault, Online Editor Brandon Bowers and visiting editor James Bennett.