The California High-Speed Rail Authority on Thursday gave formal approval to building the first section of the $43 billion rail system between two small Central Valley communities.

Rail Authority Chairman Curt Pringle, who also is the mayor of Anaheim until next week, didn’t attend the meeting because of a state Attorney General’s Office opinion that his government offices conflict with each other. Pringle is termed out as mayor on Dec. 7 and is expected to attend the next Rail Authority meeting.

In Pringle’s absence, the Rail Authority approved its previously announced plans to build the first 65-mile leg between Madera, north of Fresno, and Corcoran, north of Bakersfield. Eventually, the first phase of the project is scheduled to run from Anaheim to San Francisco. Later construction will add connections to San Diego and Sacramento.

The financial viability of the Anaheim to Los Angeles section was called into question in a series of emails between Pringle and former high-speed rail chief executive Mehdi Morshed.

Morshed noted that Anaheim only was included in the first phase because the L.A.-to-Anaheim costs were projected to be less than $2 billion. However, he said, problems with Anaheim’s planned transportation hub, called ARTIC, were driving up the potential costs and potentially raising obstacles to the city’s early inclusion in the train system.

Construction is scheduled to begin on the Central Valley portion in 2012.


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