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Federal funding for California high speed rail pulled

17 May 2019

USA: The Federal Railroad Administration announced on May 16 that it had terminated a $928·6m 2010 funding agreement with the California High-Speed Rail Authority. 

This follows a notice of intention to cancel the funding which had been issued by the FRA in March, after newly-elected Governor of California Gavin Newsom announced in his first State of the State address on February 12 that he intended to scale back the project to just the  Central Valley section between Merced and Bakersfield.

FRA said CHSRA had ‘repeatedly failed to comply’ with the terms of the 2010 agreement, and had ‘failed to make reasonable progress on the project’. It said the state of California had ‘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’.

FRA is to ‘consider all options’ for the return of $2·5bn in American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funding.

In response to FRA’s latest announcement, Newsom issued a statement saying ‘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’. Drawing attention to other issues, Newsom said the Trump administration was ‘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 US High Speed Rail Association advocacy group said ‘transportation is not, and should not be partisan’, and ‘anyone making this political is undermining the basic operation of America, going against true America values, undermining our economy, and harming the America people’.