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Biden admin sends billions to California's over-budget, behind-schedule 'train to nowhere'

PoliticsBiden admin sends billions to California's over-budget, behind-schedule 'train to nowhere'

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The Biden administration is sending California more than $3 billion in federal taxpayer funds for the state’s high-speed rail project which was first approved 15 years ago and has since faced unprecedented delays and been dramatically downsized.

The White House announced $3.07 billion in additional federal funding for the California Inaugural High-Speed Rail Service Project as part of a broader announcement Friday unveiling a total of $8.2 billion in new passenger rail corridors nationwide. The project — which has ballooned $80 billion over budget since it was first approved by California voters in 2008 — has been championed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“California is delivering on the first 220-mph, electric high-speed rail project in the nation,” Newsom said after the funding was announced. “This show of support from the Biden-Harris Administration is a vote of confidence in today’s vision and comes at a critical turning point, providing the project new momentum.”

“California takes great pride in our ambitious status as the leading edge of high-speed rail in America. With this new $3.07 billion in federal funding, we take an important leap closer to making high-speed rail a reality in California,” added Pelosi. “An electrified high-speed rail network will dramatically improve the quality of life in the Central Valley and up and down California.”


Ongoing construction of the California bullet train project is photographed in Corcoran, California, left, and Hanford, California, right.

Ongoing construction of the California bullet train project is photographed in Corcoran, California, left, and Hanford, California, right. The project is ten years behind schedule and tens of billions of dollars over budget. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images | George Rose/Getty Images)

In its announcement, the White House failed to disclose the project has been under development for more than a decade and has faced significant delays, instead boasting of its climate benefits. An accompanying announcement from the Department of Transportation described it as a project to “help deliver high-speed rail service in California’s Central Valley.”

Former Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who left office in early 2011, first introduced the high-speed rail system project, and his Democratic successor, Gov. Jerry Brown, continued the project. The Obama-Biden administration secured more than $2 billion to support the project’s development in 2010 using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the 2009 post-recession stimulus package.


The project was originally planned as a $33 billion project consisting of 1,955 miles of railway connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. Since then, the cost has swelled to $113 billion and the project’s scope has been dramatically scaled down to a 171-mile railway connecting Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced that isn’t expected to be operational until 2030.

Overall, if the project is completed in 2030, it will have taken a decade longer than expected, while costing $80 billion more and being 91% smaller than originally planned. Because of its repeated shortfalls, the project has been dubbed by critics as the “train to nowhere.”

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks during a press conference on June 28, 2021, in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks during a press conference on June 28, 2021, in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“This commuter train isn’t even ‘high speed,’ is at least 13 years behind schedule, and will now cost four times the original price tag promised to voters,” Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., who has opposed the project for years, told Fox News Digital. “Far too much taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this boondoggle. It’s in everyone’s best interest to cut the losses and rescind every cent dedicated to this foolish project.”

“Any fool can see this project isn’t going to be completed,” LaMalfa continued. “The state is $68 billion in debt, hasn’t laid a single inch of track and is over $120 billion short. Biden and Newsom sure know how to waste your money.”


And fellow California Republican Rep. Jay Obernolte also blasted the project, noting that even when it is operational, its ridership will fall short of covering the expected operating costs.

“I believe it is inappropriate for the federal government to subsidize the California High-Speed Rail Authority,” Obernolte told Fox News Digital. “This rail system is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, and even if it is ever completed, its projected ridership won’t come close to covering its operating costs — meaning that taxpayers will be asked to continue subsidizing it forever. This is not a wise or appropriate use of taxpayer money.”

Shortly after taking office in 2019, Newsom acknowledged in his first State of the State address that he would scale the project down from its original ambitious plan, saying it would cost too much and take too long to stay the course. He noted during his remarks that “there’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.”

Gavin Newsom

“Let’s be real. The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said during his first State of the State address in February 2019. “Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to LA. I wish there were.” (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas, File)

Months later, the Trump administration penned a scathing letter to California, informing the state that it was rescinding the multi-billion-dollar grant awarded for the project under the Obama administration. Former Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Ronald Batory wrote that California “has no foreseeable plans, nor the capability, to pursue that statewide [High-Speed Rail] System as originally proposed.”

In June 2021, the Biden administration said it would reverse that decision and restore the funding.


“This investment has already created over 11,000 good-paying union jobs, and California high speed rail is going to save people time, make it easy to travel across the state for the first time in history, and reduce carbon emissions by as much as 2 million metric tons — comparable to taking 432,000 passenger vehicles off the road every year,” White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson told Fox News Digital in a statement.

Patterson characterized criticism aimed at the project as “hot air.”


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