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CA Government Proposes Rail Funding

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

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Announced at the end of February, Rep. Jim Costa (D-California) proposed legislation that would provide high-speed rail projects with approximately $8 billion per year.

If passed, the High-Speed Rail Corridor Development Act (H.R. 5805) would make government funding available from 2021 through 2024, totaling $32 billion in federal funds designated for high-speed rail corridors to complete projects.

“Building transformative infrastructure projects—like high-speed rail—requires leaders with vision and determination,” said Brian Kelly, CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority.

“Congressman Costa has always demonstrated he has both when it comes to building clean, fast high-speed rail. His bill represents the kind of partnership we need with the federal government to get this important work done.”

About the Bill

According to Transportation Today, the legislation reauthorizes the 2008 program for High-Speed Rail Corridor Development and also builds upon the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of the same year.

Combined, the government program provided $1.5 billion to fund high-speed rails while the program established high-speed rail corridor development frameworks. Since 1992, Congress has designated 10 areas of the country as high-speed rail corridors.

den-belitsky / Getty Images

Announced at the end of February, Representative Jim Costa (D-California) proposed legislation which would provide high-speed rail projects with approximately $8 billion per year.

While the bill hopes to focus on California’s San Joaquin Valley high speed rail corridor, the funding would be eligible nationally and could focus on other areas such as, but not limited to: the Chicago Hub corridor linking Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati; the Empire State Corridor linking New York City to Albany and Buffalo; and the link from Washington, D.C., to Jacksonville, Florida.

“This legislation will provide the needed funding to finish California’s High-Speed Rail project. California is leading the nation in building clean train technology, which will get cars off the road and improve our air quality,” said Costa.

“We must invest in our future for our health and our economy. We already see the benefits, with new business investments in our communities and more high-paying jobs. The 119-miles of construction has employed more than 3,000 workers and supported 500 small businesses. This is the time to bring our transportation infrastructure into the 21st century. We can, and we will, get this job done!”

The bill is also reported to authorize the Secretary of Transportation to provide funding to state rail plans that encourage intermodal connectivity and environmental benefit through additional federal funding.

CA Rail Project History

Back in 2016, the California High-Speed Rail Authority identified a likely contract winner for the next construction phase of the first high-speed rail (HSR) system in the United States.

California Rail Builders, a consortium headed by the U.S. arm of Spanish firm Ferrovial, was named the “Apparent Best Value Proposer” out of five proposals for the Construction Package 4 design-build services contract, the Authority announced in a statement.

CP4 was the third contract issued for the project by the Authority since 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported. The $6 billion available for construction in this area comes from a combination of federal stimulus and transportation funds and bond funds from a high-speed rail bond measure approved by California voters in 2008.

A few years later in March 2018, reports indicated that the cost of California’s bullet train, which is slated to run from San Francisco to Los Angeles, could rise from $77.3 billion to $98.1 billion, with the completion date being bumped back to 2033, according to a recently updated business plan.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has indicated that the earliest trains would be operating on a partial system between San Francisco and Bakersfield in 2029, four years later than originally predicted. If completed, the train would be the nation’s fastest, carrying passengers between northern and southern California in less than three hours.

By November, an audit on the project was conducted, finding that cost overruns—currently totaling $600 million for three projects, with $1.6 billion total estimated to complete them—associated with the California high-speed rail project were largely due to poor planning and contract mismanagement.

In February, the Department of Transportation announced it was seeking the return of $2.5 billion in federal funds that have gone to the state’s high-speed rail project. The news came in on the heels of the state of California suing over President Donald J. Trump’s emergency declaration regarding the border.

According to The New York Times, Trump’s administration has made a similar announcement in terminating a $929 million federal grant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom noted that the “current project, as planned, would cost too much and take too long.”

At the time, the $929 million in funding was still up in the air and was not yet transferred to the state; the money was allocated, but not disbursed. In order to gain access to those funds, California had to match a previous grant of $2.6 billion in stimulus money; as of earlier this month, the state had only matched 38% of that total.


Tagged categories: Construction; Funding; Government; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rail; Railcars

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