SACRAMENTO (CBS SF)— The U.S. Department of Transportation is giving its approval for work to begin on the second leg of California’s proposed high-speed rail line.

The decision announced Friday allows the state to begin acquiring land along the 114-mile route between Fresno and Bakersfield. It essentially endorses the environmental review by the state agency that oversees the $68 billion project.

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Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx calls it a “major step forward” for high-speed rail in the U.S.

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The state still needs approval from the federal Surface Transportation Board before it can start construction.

California’s bullet train project has been beset by legal hurdles, including a court ruling that has prevented the state from selling $8.6 billion in bonds. State officials say they are spending federal money while that decision is appealed.

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