California high-speed rail officials say effect of federal cuts will be minimal 

click to enlarge Rolling forward: California’s high-speed rail project is still moving forward as planned, despite a loss of funding in the 2012 federal budget. - COURTESY RENDERING
  • courtesy rendering
  • Rolling forward: California’s high-speed rail project is still moving forward as planned, despite a loss of funding in the 2012 federal budget.

Despite a decision by the House of Representatives to cancel all funds for high-speed rail projects this year, the architects of California’s bullet train proposal said the setback will have little effect on their plans.

The Republican-led House opted to defund about $100 million designated for high-speed rail plans Thursday, a move that came as little surprise from a group that has targeted large government projects for cuts.

While some news outlets ran headlines touting that “high-speed rail is dead,” the California High-Speed Rail Authority said the act by Congress will do little to deter its $98 billion plan to connect train passengers between San Francisco with Los Angeles.

“This was virtually nothing —  a token amount,” said Rod Diridon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute and former Authority board member.

The $100 million canceled out by the House would have been for all national projects, and even though California has the most robust high-speed rail plan in the country, the authority would not have even applied for the funds, said spokeswoman Rachel Wall.

She also made note that Congress will not defund the $3.3 billion in federal funding already dedicated for California’s high-speed rail project.

Wall said that, given the current uncertainty of federal funds, the authority has projected receiving no more money from Washington until 2015.

However, after that year, the authority is expecting to rely heavily on federal funds. According to its business plan, $33 billion-$36 billion for the high-speed rail project will come from the federal government over the following 20 years.

California Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, who has held hearings on the state’s high-speed rail plans, said the authority’s federal projections are too rosy, given the volatile political climate in Washington.

He said that if Republicans continue to control the House of Representatives and President Barack Obama is replaced with a Republican president, federal funding for high-speed rail will dry up.

“I think there is a very real scenario where high-speed rail is not a national priority and there will be no funds available for this project,” Gordon said.

Diridon, however, said there is still public support for high-speed rail plans, and Washington will eventually see that.

I think we’ve seen in history that a relatively small faction in Congress can buck the tide of the public’s will for a short time,” Diridon said. “But over time, the public will win out, and that will happen in this case.


Minor bump on the tracks
$98 billion Cost of California’s high-speed-rail project
$33 billion-$36 billion Projected federal funding contribution
$3.3 billion Federal funding secured
0 Federal funding for high-speed rail in 2012 federal budget
Source: CHSRA

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Will Reisman

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