Earlier this year, we reported that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) cancelled millions in grants for the high speed rail project that California Governor Gavin Newsom has substantially scaled back.

Newsom has tried fighting this move, arguing that California needed these funds to complete a more limited-scale project than the Los Angeles to San Francisco route originally planned. However, the Trump administration did not buy the argument, so it has officially ended the Obama-era agreement.

The Trump administration transformed its threats against the California bullet train project into a sour reality Thursday, terminating a $929-million grant for construction in the Central Valley.

While loss of the money poses a potentially devastating hit to the project, state officials said, no immediate construction changes are planned because the federal government’s action could be reversed in future legal action.

Termination of the 2010 grant was based on the state’s multiple failures to forecast accurate schedules, report key milestones and show that it can meet deadlines to complete work by 2022, the Federal Railroad Administration said in a 25-page letter announcing its decision.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority “is chronically behind in project construction activities and has not been able to correct or mitigate its deficiencies,” said Ronald Batory, chief of the federal agency.

It gets even better. The administration has also planned to go after funds already towards this fiasco.

“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 said in a statement.

What’s more, it added, construction delays mean the state hasn’t complied with conditions for federal funding “and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project.”

The Trump administration said it “continues to consider all options” for clawing back the $2.5 billion in federal funding that California has already received for the project, something state officials said would be against the law.

Newsom is less than thrilled with the move.

“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 Thursday.

The governor added, “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.

California Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove asked for the funds to go towards water infrastructure. Given the condition of the state’s dams and the struggles of our Central Valley farmers to irrigate their fields, those projects would benefit more from taxpayer dollars.

This is the kind of green new deal I can support! However, safe dams and productive farms don’t have the same virtue signaling power as high speed rail.

 

 
 
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