Federal funding pulled from High-Speed Rail

Trump tweets led to federal action

The Federal Rail Administration has pulled funding for California’s High-Speed Rail Project. In a letter sent to High-Speed Rail Authority President, Brian Kelly, the FRA said it will be terminating the 2010 cooperative agreement between the two agencies.

This will pull $929 million in funding from the project, which has never been fully funded. The FRA has also requested the authority return the $2.5 billion in funding already given to the project. The project’s price tag is currently hovering around $79 billion.

The 25-page letter outlined all of the reasons the FRA is ending the partnership, stating that the state rail authority had violated the terms of the agreement. “FRA has determined that CHSRA has violated the terms of the FY 10 Agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the Project,” the letter said.

Pulling federal funding for the project comes after a series of tweets from President Donald Trump that criticized the HSRA, the project itself and California Gov. Gavin Newsom. In his February State of the State address, Newsom said that California would be rerouting funding for the rail to the Central Valley portion of the project that will link Merced and Bakersfield.

Newsom and Trump traded barbs on Twitter, and days later the FRA gave a notice that the federal administration expected to pull their funding. Kelly sent a letter back to the FRA in March, the federal government was silent when it came to California’s High-Speed Rail for two months following the initial announcement.

In their 2019 project update, the High-Speed Rail Authority identified the FRA’s lack of communication and possible funding termination as one of the project’s biggest obstacles. Newsom still thinks the funding belongs to California and has threatened to sue the administration in order to keep it.

“The Trump Administration’s action is illegal and a direct assault on California, our green infrastructure, and the thousands of Central Valley workers who are building this project,” Newsom said in a statement. “Just as we have seen from the Trump Administration’s attacks on our clean air standards, our immigrant communities and in countless other areas, the Trump Administration is trying to exact political retribution on our state. This is California’s money, appropriated by Congress, and we will vigorously defend it in court”

The High-Speed Rail project has been in the works for decades, and the state’s voters approved a bond to partially fund it in 2008. It is slated to carry passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles when complete, with a station planned in Gilroy. The rail system would also cut north-to-south through Morgan Hill without stopping, though authorities have not determined the exact route this segment of the system would take.

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