California to Build High-Speed Rail to Nowhere over Federal Objections

California high-speed rail (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSPA) voted last week to proceed with the building of 119 miles of high-speed track in the San Joaquin Valley, despite the loss of federal funding for the project as a whole.

Earlier this year, newly-inaugurated California Governor Gavin Newsom announced in his “State of the State” address that the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles project ““would cost too much and, respectfully, would take too long.”

However, Newsom insisted that the portion of the project that was to have been built in the rural Central Valley would go ahead.

President Donald Trump then insisted on canceling federal funding for the project and vowed to claw back funds that had already been sent to California under President Barack Obama’s administration.

The Fresno Bee reported on Sunday:

California High-Speed Rail Authority board members voted unanimously Tuesday to issue a request for bids from a trio of pre-qualified teams of companies to install two sets of tracks, as well as systems for electrical power, signals and communications on the route that is now under construction from north of Madera to northwest of Bakersfield.

On Monday, a day before the rail authority’s meeting in Sacramento, the Federal Railroad Administration sent the state a letter declaring its disapproval for releasing of the bid request. The FRA is the federal agency that administers and oversees about $2.6 billion in federal stimulus grants that were awarded to California for the rail project.

In a response Tuesday, rail authority CEO Brian Kelly blamed the FRA for dragging its feet in reviewing materials that he said the state has already provided. The FRA’s disapproval, he wrote to Barnes, “is based on misunderstandings and your agency’s own inaction, which does not provide a good faith basis for interfering in this authority’s efforts to meet the timelines in our federal grant agreements.”

It is not clear what demand exists, if any, in the region for an additional, high-speed rail between small rural cities already connected by Amtrak’s San Joaquin line.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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