Trump, CA clash over wall, train

Trump, CA clash over wall, train

Trump, CA clash over wall, train

Gavin Newsom says the Trump administration is engaging in "political retribution" by trying to take back $3.5 billion granted for the state's high-speed rail project.

Gov. Gavin Newsom slammed the move as "political retribution" for his state's leading role in suing the White House over Trump's declaration of a national emergency to build his border wall. "California, the state that has wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train, with no hope of completion, seems in charge", Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

"This is California's money, and we are going to fight for it", Newsom said of the rail funds.

"This is California's money, and we are going to fight for it", he said.

Fed up, the Trump administration stopped payment this week on $929 million in federal tax dollars intended for the railway and announced plans to perhaps claw back some of the $2.5 billion already spent on it.

California planned to build a 520-mile (826.8 km) system in the first phase that would allow trains to travel at speeds up to 220 miles per hour (354 kph) in the traffic-choked state from Los Angeles to San Francisco and begin full operations by 2033.

Since then, overrunning costs and delays have plagued the project and in his state address last week, Gov Newsom said they would be scaling the project down and focusing on connecting regions in the Central Valley for now. Trump's administration argued on February 19 that the state did not provide matching dollars, which are required, and said they could not fully complete construction by the 2022 deadline.

The DOT compounded this sentiment in a letter Tuesday, stating that California "materially failed to comply with the terms of the agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project".

Money, of course, remains the overarching issue with the project, with the price tag for a statewide train system closing in on $100 billion. Realistically, no fiscally prudent government entity or private developer would plan a high-speed rail line to serve such a short, low-density, low-population corridor.

"Governor Newsom presented a new proposal that represents a significant retreat from the State's initial vision and commitment and frustrates the goal for which Federal funding was awarded", read the letter outlining the case for cancelling the money.

Ronald Batory of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) wrote a letter to California state officials, saying that the DOT was seeking to defund the California High-speed Rail project over failure "to make reasonable progress". Instead it could withhold money from other transportation projects.

There are several scenarios in which the federal government can take money back from California, as outlined in the grant agreement signed in 2010. "We're not giving it back".

"Right now there simply isn't a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A.", he said. But it has already spent the extra $2.5 billion that Trump now wants back. Not only is the project not what was presented to the FRA, it's not what was presented to the voters when they first approved the project back in 2008. Construction of the rest of the track was postponed indefinitely.

Gov Newson said in a statement on Tuesday that "it's no coincidence that the administration's threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the president's farcical "national emergency".

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