Friday, May 11, 2012

Feds to California: Start HSR action by June

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The Obama Administration Thursday warned California officials it might rescind $3.3 billion in federal funding for the state's proposed high speed rail network, if the state legislature does not act by next month to appropriate state funding for the project.

California voters have approved roughly $9 billion in state bonding authority to help pay for the project, but the funding increasingly has been questioned by self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives, as well as by ardent anti-rail activists, and public support has weakened.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has made clear his rejection of recent proposal by state Senate leaders to delay a $2.7 billion decision on HSR until August. "We need the legislature to make the strongest commitment possible," LaHood said. "The way to do that is to include the money for high speed rail in the budget that is passed in June. August is too late for us."ray-lahood-2

LaHood (pictured at right) said the Department of Transportation could reassign California's funding share to other locations, as it did for funds initially designated to Florida HSR and Wisconsin higher-speed rail (HrSR) projects. "We may begin looking at other places in the country," LaHood said.

Gov. Jerry Brown, an ardent supporter of the HSR project, seeks to start building a $6 billion section in the state's Central Vellay, linking Bakersfield and Fresno. The full project, currently re-estimated to cost $68.4 billion, would create a 700-mile HSR network linking both Sacramento and San Francisco, in the northern portion of the state, with Los Angeles and San Diego.