The Biden administration has restored a $929mn grant for California’s high-speed rail that then-president Donald Trump revoked in 2019.
Trump had pulled funding for a high-speed train project in the state hobbled by extensive delays and rising costs that he dubbed a “disaster.”
Trump repeatedly clashed as president with California on a number of policy fronts, prompting the state to file more than 100 lawsuits against the Republican Trump administration.
Democratic President Joe Biden strongly supports high-speed rail and has vowed to ensure the US “has the cleanest, safest, and fastest rail system in the world.”
Biden wants to dramatically increase funding for passenger rail networks, and in April touted high-speed trains that could eventually travel almost as fast as airplanes.
Federal Railroad administration deputy administrator Amit Bose yesterday said the agreement follows “intensive negotiations between the parties and reflects the federal government’s ongoing partnership in the development of high-speed rail.”
California’s lawsuit claimed the transportation department lacked legal authority to withhold the $929mn the administration of former president Barack Obama allocated a decade ago but had remained untapped.
“The Biden administration’s restoration of nearly $1bn for California’s high-speed rail is great news for our state and our nation,” US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a statement.
The parties agreed to restore the grant within three days, according to the settlement agreement.
The funding restoration occurs as the Biden administration tries to hammer out an infrastructure spending deal with lawmakers.
California’s system, which is billed by the state as the first US high-speed rail project, is estimated to cost from $69bn to $99.8bn and aims to be completed in the 2030s.
Democratic California governor Gavin Newsom said the funding restoration will “move the state one step closer to getting trains running in California as soon as possible.”
California voters approved the initial $10bn bond for the project in 2008, and $3.5bn in federal money was allocated two years later.
California previously received $2.5bn.
Trump had threatened - but ultimately did not see the return of the $2.5bn.
California State Treasurer Fiona Ma noted in a letter on Monday that the Obama administration had allocated $10.5bn for high-speed rail projects in 2009 and 2010 and that there are still no operational US
high-speed rail lines.
“To be clear, a repeat effort that spends billions without getting any new lines operational after another decade will be the death of high-speed rail in America,” Ma wrote to congressional leaders.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration yesterday began a process to reverse a Trump-era policy that opened vast swathes of the largest US national forest, the Tongass in Alaska, to logging and mining.
The move is the latest effort to roll back a land use decision made under Trump, reflecting a growing emphasis on conservation over commercial development.
In a notice posted on a White House website, the administration said it would propose “to repeal or replace” the exemption of the Tongass from the 2001 Roadless Rule that was finalised late last year. The Clinton-era rule banned logging, roads and mining in undeveloped forests.
Alaska state officials had petitioned for the change because they said the rule has cost Alaskans jobs.
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