California and its High-Speed Rail Authority has filed a lawsuit objecting to the Trump administration’s decision to cancel nearly $1 billion in federal funds that were to be allocated toward the construction of its high-speed bullet rail project.
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The lawsuit claims the state has made substantial progress on the project – disputing the administration’s claims. The state alleges that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has become less cooperative over the past year.
California says the project is a “critical part” of the state’s plans to “address critical transportation needs, but also greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.”
The lawsuit also appears to draw a connection between California joining a group of states that sued to invalidate Trump’s declaration of emergency at the Southern Border and the decision to withhold funds, saying that the president began tweeting criticisms of the project the next morning. Following the president's tweeted critques of the project, California said the FRA signaled its intent to terminate the funds later the same day.
The FRA announced on last Thursday that it would end an agreement with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, withholding nearly $1 billion in federal funds. The decision was made based on the rail authority’s “repeated failure to submit critical required deliverables and its failure to make sufficient progress to complete the project.”
The FRA has given the project $2.5 billion, with $929 million more pledged. The administration previously threatened to withhold the promised funds in March, prompting a response from the California Rail Authority alleging that would “gravely harm” the project which needs the money to fund the “final set of tasks” for completion.
Trump has been highly critical of the plan, claiming “many billions of dollars” had been wasted on it. The White House is also looking into whether it can recover the $2.5 billion it has already given.
The initial plan was to build a line connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles, which would cost $79 billion. However, Gov. Gavin Newsom pared down the project earlier this year, concentrating on a line connecting Bakersfield to Merced. The governor acknowledged that critics might call this “a train to nowhere,” which he said was wrong. At the time, he said the initial project would “cost too much” and “take too long.” He did acknowledge he would eventually continue the broader project.
The project was supported by Newsom’s predecessor Gov. Jerry Brown. It was estimated that it would have been completed by 2033. It is projected the train would have transported more than 120,000 riders per day, at speeds of up to 200 mph.
The project is among the most expensive infrastructure projects in the U.S. According to a recent report from the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority, the line in California’s Central Valley, which is under construction, will cost $12.4 billion – up from initial estimates of $10.6 billion. The entire Central Valley segment is expected to cost more than $20 billion.
Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison previously said the initiative could become one of the state’s “great embarrassments” during an interview with FOX Business. In his opinion, in the future people are going to be taking autonomous electric cars from Los Angeles to San Francisco “at a tiny fraction of the cost,” affording them the leisure to leave whenever they please.