The 14 Republicans representing California in Congress recently asked the Department of Transportation to delay approval of a federal grant, which would provide indirect funding to California’s high-speed rail line, until an audit of the proposed high-speed system’s finances is completed. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao agreed, putting off the decision on awarding the $650 million federal grant for electrification of a Caltrain’s Bay Area commuter rail system.
The upgrade, from diesel trains to electric trains on a section of rail between San Jose and San Francisco, has been in the works for 18 years. But the electrification is also now needed for the high-speed rail system to connect San Jose to San Francisco, which ultimately put this funding in limbo.
In normal political circumstances like this — with a Republican president and GOP control of Congress — it wouldn’t seem likely that the federal government would be sending California federal taxpayer money for this or other high-speed rail projects anytime soon.
But these aren’t normal times. Before a recent meeting with executives from major airlines, President Trump complained that America doesn’t “have one fast train.” Trump has promised a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that has yet to be fleshed out.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe even made a pitch for high-speed rail technology to Trump. “With the latest magnetic technology from Washington, D.C., up to New York where Trump Tower exists, only one hour would it take if you ride the MagLev train from Washington, D.C., to New York,” Abe said.
With the uncertainty around Trump, Congress and the future of high-speed rail funding, the state’s ongoing revisions to the train’s business plan amount to moving the deck chairs on the Titanic because they don’t solve the fundamental problems: lack of funding, cost-overruns, delays and mismanagement.
The Los Angeles Times recently obtained a report by the Federal…