California high-speed rail gets boost from rejected Florida funds

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today that California will be receiving an additional $300 million in federal funds for high-speed rail, which will allow the current 110 mile segment in the Central Valley to be extended an additional 20 miles.

The windfall comes from the $2.4 billion set aside for Florida that governor Rick Scott rejected in February. Since then the money has been in limbo. California applied for the entire purse, but the money has been split up between the Northeast Corridor ($800 million), the Midwest ($400 million)  and other states.

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, announced the news the morning, and had this to say on his blog:

Remember, we’re not just talking about quicker, more convenient travel.  We’re talking about jobs. We’re talking about opportunities for economic development.  We’re talking about cutting dependence on foreign oil, reducing tailpipe emissions, and easing congestion so commercial drivers can avoid highway freight bottlenecks.

Read the full press release here. The California High Speed Rail Blog also has the story and a long discussion in the comments section. The California High-Speed Rail Authority is still trying to assemble funds to build the entirety of the bullet train’s first segment from Anaheim to San Francisco.

8 replies

  1. @Bobby
    I think stopping the trains in downtown LA can only be possible or even remotely plausible once the LOSSAN corridor is actually electrified, fully double tracked, and has top speeds of 110 mph. And I don’t think that is an unreasonable expectation at all considering we are talking about a required transfer to go further south from DTLA and also since those are necessary capital improvements in such a large metropolitan area such as ours. Unfortunately for the HSR in general what we very well may end up with is something more akin to the Acela express in the northeast corridor rather than the TGV in france at least for the interim before funds are fully secured.

  2. Even the CA HSR admits that money is short. As the biggest evidence has been their move much closer to adopting LESS than high speed the last several miles into SF and between LA and Anaheim. While the usual suspect of NIMBY’s were referred, the article I read several months ago quoted someone at CA HSR stating the the COST to grade separate in the dense urban corridor between LA and Anaheim was a major financial burden, but they believed HSR could use the current corridor at current top speeds for Amtrak and Metrolink and still have a viable HSR experience. PLEASE! What’s the point of HSR if one can’t travel at High Speed from LA to Anaheim or for about the same distance into SF, where cost was also cited.

    My opinion is the current HSR plan should NOT include LA to Anaheim as the announced intention of running on the current corridor at Amtrak and Metrolink track speeds is duplicating the same service at the expensive of the rest of the HSR network. It ought to terminate in LA and folks can transfer to trains that will go NO FASTER than the CA HSR. The money saved here, however little, can used on the rest of the system with the robust speeds.

    Of course, the mayor of Anaheim as chairman of the HSR board (I don’t know if he resigned that post, yet) saw to it that Anaheim was included in CA HSR for their own reasons. The HSR board should grow some and cut the wasteful LA to Anaheim leg of the network. AFAIK, it is the SF to LA segment that is MANDATED FIRST, followed by the other segments IF funds are available to build them.

  3. High speed rail in CA doesn’t have a credible source of funds to finish the entire project. The biggest source of money so far is a $10 billion state bond that will cannibalize other state programs unless we can raise a tax to pay the money back, which is very difficult because of Prop 13’s 2/3 vote requirement to raise taxes.

    This issue has the potential to sink the whole thing. Unless we find the will to tax ourselves for this, or identify something else we are willing to forgo, I don’t see how this project can be finished.

  4. Joel,

    I think there’s a case to be made for prioritizing urban over inter-urban transportation infrastructure, but I keep coming back to the fact that what we really need is to increase accross-the-board invertmesnts at every level.

    Also, the state will need to expand it’s intercity travel capacity regardless, to just keep up with current levels of congestion as the state continues to grow. So the debate is really about whether you do HSR or add lanes to I-5 and SR 99 and add runways to LAX, SFO and other airports.

    The price tag on HSR actually compares quite favorably to those other options, plus it has the benefit of helping spur growth more efficiently and sustainably in existing urban centers.

    Carter Rubin
    Contributing Writer, The Source

  5. I realize why people would be against a pricey project like this, its been a long time since we have seen government undertake large infrastructure projects on statewide scales from scratch. However our infrastructure is woefully behind our growth. Not spending the money now will only push the cost into the future. Ironically being against HSR on the basis of “it costs too much” will cost us MORE down the road. We need the jobs now, we need the infrastructure now, we need to build it now.

    This is an alternative to the more expensive road and air expansion that would be needed. This should be the financially conservative position. We don’t live in a vacuum. Thank you Florida, but i feel bad for the communities that wont enjoy their HSR.

  6. Good for California but it’s time to question the wisdom of spending on HSR when the real need is for urban mass transit in LA and the state’s other large metropolitan areas. I’m for redirecting the Florida money, and other HSR funding that may be coming our way to accelerating construction of the Measure R transit projects.

    I’m sure someone will reply that HSR dollars are earmarked for HSR. To which I say, transit dollars should be fungible. Reallocate them where they can do the greatest good -to urban mass transit.

  7. Maybe…but keep in mind it was be a very long temporary job. It’s not like it’ll create jobs for a year and be done. The CA HSR will take a long time to build.

  8. Thanks Florida! We appreciate it! Anyways, I think that the focus on job creation ought not be the center piece of why we should have high speed rail. After all, they are just temporary jobs and I feel like the job creation side of it is almost a straw man in the political spectrum and can be discredited as simply “one of those government socialist jobs programs” and then be dismissed.