Jerry Brown seeks Chinese funding for California high-speed rail

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michal Conger

California Gov. Jerry Brown heads to China this week to seek investments in his state’s “green” projects, including an astronomically expensive high-speed rail project that is floundering despite receiving tens of billions in federal stimulus money.

Brown begins a week of meetings on Tuesday with a focus on bilateral trade and investment opportunities, as well as opening a new California foreign trade and investment office.

China’s rail system is the longest in the world, covering 5,800 miles, and is heavily financed by the government, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Brown will ride the rail system from Beijing to Shanghai accompanied by Dan Richard, the chairman of California’s high-speed rail board, Dan Richard, according to the Mercury News.

California’s rail project, which would run from Los Angeles to San Francisco, faces increasing skepticism at home, with costs soaring and not much to show for it. The project has nearly tripled in cost since it was approved by voters in 2008. Most recently, the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board upped its estimate by another $97 million, just for planning costs, according to the Mercury News, bringing planning costs alone to $878 million.

As CNN reported last month, not a single rail has been laid for the high-speed train, and a report released last fall estimates the rail system could cost as much as $118 billion. The project has so far been awarded $3.5 billion in federal stimulus funds, and California wants tens of billions more.

And that’s where China comes in. The country invested an estimated $1.3 billion in the state in 2011, according to the Asia Society, and Brown is hoping for much more.

“We’re going to facilitate billions of dollars of investments,” Brown said in a speech last week, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Not overnight, but over time.”

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