Gavin Newsom may want to keep the federal subsidies for California’s stunted high-speed rail project, but the Trump administration wants the cash back. After Newsom reset the project from a connection between the state’s two largest metropolises to a ten-figure project to connect two cities with a combined population of under 600,000, the new governor also declared that he’d hang onto $3.5 billion from Washington.
It didn’t take long for collectors to come knocking:
The U.S. Transportation Department said on Tuesday it will cancel $929 million in federal funds awarded by the Obama administration for a California high-speed rail project and is “actively exploring every legal option” to seek the return of $2.5 billion the state has already received.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said last week the state will dramatically scale back a planned $77.3 billion high-speed rail project that has faced cost hikes, delays and management concerns, but will finish a smaller section of the line.
The Transportation Department’s Federal Railroad Administration said in a letter it wanted to halt funding because the state had “failed to make reasonable progress.” It cited Newsom’s announcement to scale back the project.
Newsom called the demand “clear political retribution” for California’s decision to join a lawsuit against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency over the border wall:
“It’s no coincidence that the Administration’s threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the President’s farcical ‘national emergency,'” Newsom said in a statement. “This is clear political retribution by President Trump, and we won’t sit idly by.” …
Mr. Trump’s comments about a “failed” project followed Newsom’s comments last week that the current plan for an LA-San Francisco train would cost too much and take too long. Instead, he said he’d focus immediately on a line through the Central Valley while still doing environmental work on the full line. That work is a requirement for keeping the federal money.
Still, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Newsom’s remarks reinforced concerns about the project’s ability to deliver. The department wrote Newsom’s comments mark a “significant retreat from the State’s initial vision and commitment and frustrated the purpose for which the Federal funding was awarded.”
The CBS affiliate in LA found an analyst to echo Newson’s claim that “this is California’s money,” stating in the video above that it wasn’t specified for only the high-speed rail project. If that was true, though, Newsom wouldn’t have to keep conducting environmental-impact studies to keep the cash as CBS News reports. Newsom also wouldn’t have to pretend to keep the San Francisco-LA route open as a possibility either, except possibly to keep progressives and Green New Deal zealots off his back.
At any rate, this is not “California’s money.” This is federal money, of which California has wasted enough on its farcical high-speed rail project. If Newsom sees a need to give high-speed rail service to allow fast travel between Modesto and Bakersfield, then California should come up with its own funding for it. The rest of the country shouldn’t have to pay for it.