(Reuters) – California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday the state will not complete a $77.3 billion planned high-speed rail project, but will finish a smaller section of the line.
FILE PHOTO: California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom speaks after being elected governor of the state during an election night party in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
“The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency,” Newsom said in his first State of the State Address Tuesday to lawmakers.
“Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to (Los Angeles). I wish there were,” he said.
Newsom said the state will complete a 110-mile (177 km) high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. In March 2018, the state forecast the costs had jumped by $13 billion to $77 billion and warned that the costs could be as much as $98.1 billion.
California planned to build a 520-mile system in the first phase that would allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour in the traffic-choked state from Los Angeles to San Francisco and begin full operations by 2033.
Newsom said he would not give up entirely on the effort.
“Abandoning high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises and lawsuits to show for it,” he said. “And by the way, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump.”
U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Republicans cited a recent Democratic clean energy proposal in noting the project’s demise, tweeting that “the plug gets pulled on the frequently delayed, over-budget San Francisco-LA (high-speed rail) project. Reality: 1, #GreenNewDeal: 0.”
The Obama administration awarded the state a total of $3.5 billion in 2010 and California voters in 2008 approved nearly $10 billion in bond proceeds. The U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general’s office noted in August 2018 that the state had only identified $30.7 billion in funding, or less than half the project’s needs.
A spokesman for U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao did not immediately comment.
Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio and Tom Brown