The Fed Giveth, Taketh Away

Anthony Pignataro:

It’s another day of good news and bad news for the California High Speed Rail Authority, that tiny but plucky state, um, entity charged with building an 800-mile network of bullet trains across California. First the good news: the state just received another $624 million in federal rail money.

“This is yet another vote of confidence that California’s project is on the right track toward creating tens of thousands of jobs for our state and constructing the nation’s first true high-speed rail system,” authority CEO Roelof van Ark said in this Dec. 9 press release.

And now the bad news. According to this Dec. 7 press release, U.S. House of Representatives just cut twice that amount of money in federal bullet train funding for projects nationwide, further imperiling California’s effort, which is estimated to cost between $43 billion and $90 billion. According to the release, which came out of the House Appropriations Committee, the Fiscal Year 2011 Year Long Funding Act “provides $1.5 billion less for high-speed rail, as the President requested.”

Okay then. Of course, it remains to be seen what the rail authority will do with the $624 million that they are getting. According to an e-mail sent out on the various rail funding announcements, Elizabeth Alexis, a Palo Alto economist active with Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD), said it’s anything but clear what the authority will, or even can, do:

“The Authority can use this money to go north or south from their current Borden – Corcoran section. If they go south, there is a very expensive aerial structure to build through Corcoran, unless they can get approval to go through a Tulare wetlands mitigation project. If they go north, they would reach the BNSF [Burlington Northern Santa Fe] tracks, freeing up money that had been reserved to connect to these tracks, in case Plan B is activated and the high speed rail tracks become Amtrak’s. They would have to stop in Madera, as there would be no link up for many miles to BNSF track.”

DEC. 9, 2010

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