Gavin Newsom To Scale Back, Not Abandon, California's High-Speed Rail


Announcing he'll scale back the state's bullet train project, a signature of his predecessors, Newsom said, "Let's be real: The current project, as planned, would cost too much and take too long".

Despite receiving $3.5 billion in federal funding, the $77 billion initiative "cost [s] too much and, respectfully, [was taking] too long", said Newsom during his State of the State address. "There's been too little oversight and not enough transparency", he said.

At the California High-Speed Rail Authority's monthly board meeting, Roy Hill, who heads the project's main consulting firm, said the project has reached a "worst-case scenario" of increases unanticipated by the rail authority, but widely predicted outside the halls of state government, even in a confidential analysis by the Federal Railroad Administration. He acknowledged critics would ding this move as a "train to nowhere, but I think that's wrong and I think that's offensive". And they have suffered too many years of neglect from policymakers here in Sacramento. Former Governor Jerry Brown defended the project as part of the state's nation-leading effort against climate change, an issue that Newsom has made a centerpiece of his administration.

"The extent to which it doesn't link to the two largest urban areas in the state - two of the three largest urban areas in the state seems problematic", said Democratic House Speaker Anthony Rendon of Los Angeles. But since $10 billion of bonds were approved by voters more than a decade ago to jumpstart the line, it's been beset by cost overruns, construction delays and lawsuits by property owners and taxpayer groups.

"I do not support the WaterFix as now configured", Newsom said of the estimated $17 billion water project to build two massive tunnels underneath the state's most important estuary.

"We have to be realistic about the project - that means refocus and reprioritize to get a finished section from Bakersfield to Merced", Melgar said, adding that the governor intends on "completing the bookend projects and finishing the environmental review for the San Francisco to Los Angeles leg". In all likelihood, he wants to use the money he'll save from not building the train on other big progressive aims, like single-payer health care coverage or propping up the state's overextended pension system for public employees. "And by the way, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump".

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"Let's get something done once and for all", he said, arguing the Central Valley should not be left out of the project's "economic transformation". "Anchored by high-speed rail, we can align our economic, workforce, and transportation strategies to revitalize communities across our state", he tweeted.

In response to Newsom's comments, CHRSA Chief Executive Officer Brian Kelly said the authority is "eager" to complete the project's construction in the Central Valley.

"California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars".

"Last week, we heard (Trump) stand up at the State of the Union and offer a vision of an America fundamentally at odds with California values", he said.

Newsom at his speech also criticized the president's "fear mongering" over immigration.