July 17, 2019
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In a 25-page letter issued on May 16, the Federal Railroad Administration officially “deobligated” more than $928 million in funding given to the California High-Speed Rail Authority for “failure to make reasonable progress” on the state’s proposed north-south high-speed train program; a project curtailed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Feb. 12.

[Above photo by Jack Snell.]

“California has abandoned its original vision of a high-speed passenger rail service connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, which was essential to its applications for FRA grant funding,” the agency noted in a statement.

The FRA originally notified California of its intent to cancel that grant funding back in February, pointing out that Gov. Newsom’s decision to retreat from the original high-speed rail plan “represents a significant retreat from the state’s initial vision and commitment and frustrates the purpose for which federal funding was awarded.”

The FRA added that it “continues to consider all options” regarding the return of $2.5 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds awarded to CHSRA in 2009 to help fund the venture.

The federal portion of California’s high-speed rail project came from two sources nine years ago. First came $8 billion for intercity passenger rail projects out of the 2009 ARRA or “stimulus” funding, followed by $2.5 billion worth of high speed/intercity passenger rail grants included in the fiscal year 2010 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development appropriations.

In a statement, Gov. Newsom vowed to sue the FRA in order to retain that nearly $1 billion in funding.

“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,” the governor said. “This is California’s money, appropriated by Congress, and we will vigorously defend it in court.”

editor@aashto.org

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