Update as of April 11, 2011
Preparation work is continuing on the initial stretch of the high speed rail line between Borden, a small town in the central valley, through Fresno and ending in Corcoran, another small town in the central valley. Derided by many as the "train to nowhere", this initial segment was really the best choice because of the low cost and relative freedom from NIMBY fighting that has caused problems in the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas. I feel a lot of anti-high speed rail sentiment will vanish when opponents see it in operation; thus, it is critically important that a segment be built so that the state and the nation can see what it will be like. Despite the relative community peace through the affected area, there has been some grumbling from farmers about the high speed rail line going through their farms.
The recent (and regrettable) decision by Florida governor Rick Scott to cancel Florida's high speed rail project, which would have been the first high speed rail project to be completed in the country, has freed up over $2 billion in federal high speed rail funds to be given to other states. California has applied for all of those funds and given both the strong state support for California high speed rail, evidenced primarily by the $10 billion in high speed rail bonds approved by California voters, and the fact that California's high speed rail project is further along in the planning process than any other state's project, if the $2 billion is allocated then California stands a good chance of getting it all (it is also important to note that as of this date California has gotten about 50% of all national high speed rail funding). However, the recent federal budget agreement has bad news for high speed rail fans: $1.5 billion of the $2 billion in cuts from federal transportation funding in the recent stopgap funding bill comes from funding earmarked for high speed rail, so even if California received all the funding it would not be enough to extend the starter line north towards Merced or south towards Bakersfield.
Update as of November 20, 2011
Congress has approved a transportation spending bill that eliminates all federal funding for high speed rail. Despite this, California Governor Brown has vowed to continue the project, and construction may begin as soon as 2012. Meanwhile, the high speed rail project team has released an updated business plan. Read my review of the cost , ridership projections, and the phasing of the plan .