Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

Trump administration to pull funding for California bullet train

Trump administration to pull funding for California bullet train

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in his State of the State address February 12 that he plans to scale back the California high-speed rail project days before President Donald Trump called for California to repay $2.5 billion in federal funding for the project. Mr Trump said in a Feb 13 tweet.

These federal funds account for a quarter of the California rail project.

So the Trump administration will have a hard time clawing those dollars back, though its effort to do so will probably involve a time-consuming, politically bruising process. Its estimated price has ballooned to $77 billion.

Newsom declared in his first State of the State address last week that he planned to scale back the project and focus immediately on building 171 miles (275 kilometres) of track in central California.

That may be hard to pull off - and will surely face an extended court battle - but that's not the point. Newsom has responded that this move is political payback for Trump's regular tangles with California; in particular, the Golden State joining others in challenging Trump's "national emergency" to get the border wall funded. In one month alone state contributions were more than $100 million less than it had promised. It's the antithesis of the Trumpist view that restrained regulation and limited government involvement open the path to success.

Trump tweeted again Wednesday that California should "send the federal government back the billions of dollars WASTED" on its "failed" train project.

The Trump administration action is likely to add further fuel to critics, including those in California, who want the project stopped.

Newsom said in a statement on Tuesday that the seizing of funds was a "clear political retribution by President Trump". "We want that money back now", he tweeted.

Now the United States relies on an aging, outdated rail infrastructure and is lagging far behind areas like China and Europe.

Maria Salinas, head of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, told Xinhua that while the Chamber appreciates the governor's commitment to not wasting public resources already spent on the project, it is concerned that the scale of his rail "is not adequate to meet the needs of a growing, geographically diverse state".

On Twitter, Trump claimed the "failed Fast Train project" was beset by "world record setting" cost overruns and had become "hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!" Whole project is a "green" disaster! On Tuesday, his administration took steps towards collecting those funds.

President Trump and the governor have been at odds since before Newsom took office. And the White House has a plan to get some of that money back.

The agreement's termination is set to take effect March 5, although Batory offered California officials an opportunity to dispute the government's findings.

California hasn't yet fully matched the $2.5 billion in stimulus money.

The letter states that the Federal Railroad Administration determined that the state's high-speed rail authority "materially failed to comply with the terms of the agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project, significantly endangering substantial performance".

"Governor Newsom presented a new proposal that represents a significant retreat from the State's initial vision and commitment and frustrates the objective for which Federal funding was awarded", read the letter outlining the case for cancelling the money.

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