Trump Administration cancels $929 million in California high-speed rail funds

The Trump Administration has followed through on its threat to revoke nearly $1 billion in funding for California’s controversial high-speed rail project, a decision the state says it will challenge in court. 

On Thursday, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced it terminated an agreement with the California High-Speed Rail Authority that contained $928.6 million in funding. Likewise, the federal agency said it is considering all of its options to recover $2.5 billion in funds already given to the high-speed rail project.

California has repeatedly failed to comply with the terms of the agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project, the FRA said in a statement.

“Additionally, California has abandoned its original vision of a high-speed passenger rail service connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, which was essential to its applications for FRA grant funding,” the statement says.

The planned high-speed rail, which President Donald Trump has criticized repeatedly, was intended to link Northern California to Southern California and, in particular, San Francisco to Los Angeles. The project has been delayed by problems with securing funding, acquiring privately held land and fighting legal challenges.

In February, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California would shift its focus to constructing a rail line from Bakersfield to Merced. Newsom has claimed, though, the state still intends to complete the rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The following month, the Federal Railroad Administration informed California that it planned to terminate the $928.6 funding agreement. 

In a letter sent Thursday to the High-Speed Rail Authority, the federal agency said California was chronically behind on construction; unable to accurately forecast a long-term schedule and costs for the project; and unable to submit fundamental documents, such as budgets, funding contribution plans and project management plans. 

Newsom responded with a statement calling the cancellation of federal funding for the high-speed rail political retribution and saying California would challenge the Trump Administration’s decision in court.

“The Trump Administration’s action is illegal and a direct assault on California, our green infrastructure and thousands of Central Valley workers who are building this project,” Newsom said.

“Just as we have seen from the Trump Administration’s attacks on our clean air standards, our immigrant communities and in countless other areas, the Trump Administration is trying to exact political retribution on our state.

“This is California’s money, appropriated by Congress, and we will vigorously defend it in court.”