US House Republicans seek to block California high-speed rail funds

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday plans to vote on legislation that would bar the Biden administration from awarding funds to California’s High-Speed Rail project.

The White House on Monday said it opposed the bill that would also dramatically cut funds for U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak and mass transit programs.

The California high-speed rail program aims to ultimately move travelers from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin at speeds above 200 miles per hour in under three hours.

California recently won $202 million in federal funds for grade separation projects and is seeking $8 billion in federal grants over five years.

California voters approved an initial $10 billion bond for the project in 2008. The initial segment is now estimated to cost up to $35 billion and launch service as early as 2030. The full San Francisco to Los Angeles project is estimated to cost between $88 billion and $128 billion.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said in an Oct. 13 letter to President Joe Biden that combined with $754 million in state funding, the $3 billion federal grant would allow the state to complete an initial 119-mile segment, buy six electric high-speed trains and construct a new high-speed rail station in Fresno.

In June 2021, the Biden administration restored a $929 million grant for the California high-speed rail project. In 2019, then-President Donald Trump pulled funding for the project, hobbled by delays and rising costs, calling it a “disaster.”

Congress approved $66 billion for rail as part of the 2021 $1 trillion infrastructure bill, with Amtrak receiving $22 billion and $36 billion allocated for competitive grants.

Amtrak’s annual federal funding would be cut by 64% under the Republican proposal.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority declined to comment on the legislation.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese)