California Gets Big High Speed Rail Stimulus Award

Crossposted from the California High Speed Rail Blog

Today is going to be an excellent day for California High Speed Rail and our state’s economic future. California has been awarded $2.35 billion in federal passenger rail stimulus funds. $2.25 billion of that goes directly to high speed rail, the other $100 million goes to other passenger rail projects.

Here are the details as I have them – see more in the official White House release:

• $2.25 billion for high speed rail funding in the SF-SJ, Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield, and LA-Anaheim corridors, as well as for Phase I planning. There is some debate about whether these are specifically programmed to each corridor, or whether Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and/or the CHSRA will determine the final allocations.

• $99.4 million for upgrades and track work designed to produce faster speeds on other passenger rail routes, including the Pacific Surfliners, San Joaquins, and Capitol Corridor.

There is no specific detail about whether the Transbay Terminal got funded or not, which has been part of an ongoing battle between the California High Speed Rail Authority and San Francisco. That might be part of the “to be determined” portion of how the money is to be allocated, if the reports are true that the FRA is leaving that decision up to the state.

Still, this is a major victory for the California high speed rail project. $2.25 billion, with $100 million for other passenger rail, is an unprecedented level of federal investment in California rail.

It’s also a repudiation of the “go slow” argument on the Peninsula. Mayors Rich Cline of Menlo Park and Pat Burt of Palo Alto have openly derided the value of the stimulus and suggested the state not pursue the stimulus funds, even as unemployed workers explained the desperate need for new jobs. President Obama has rejected this insane approach, and said that instead of going slow, we need to go much faster – at high speed.

Just as the November 2008 approval of Prop 1A by California voters signaled that high speed rail really was going to happen, the infusion of a significant amount of federal money is further proof that despite all the deniers and critics, HSR remains not just popular, but a major element of this country’s economic recovery plans.

It’s also a reminder that, as many of the experienced land use planners and infrastructure builders explained at last week’s State Senate hearing in Palo Alto, we’re currently at the most difficult part: hashing out the details of where exactly the trains go, and how exactly the tracks will be built. Once dirt is turned and steel put in the ground, all this difficulty will begin to fade.

We still have some way to go on this. And if indeed the Governor gets to decide how the $2.25 billion for HSR is allocated, some of the corridor battles are still yet to be fought. But it gives us another chance to advocate for getting this money out the door as fast as possible to ensure that we start putting people back to work, weaning California off of oil, addressing global warming, and building a 21st century transportation system.

Over the flip is a press release my grassroots HSR organization, Californians For High Speed Rail put out last night.

Californians For High Speed Rail issued this statement on the stimulus announcement:

Californians For High Speed Rail, a statewide grassroots coalition of high speed rail supporters, welcomed the announcement Tuesday evening from the White House that California will receive $2.25 billion in federal stimulus money for high speed rail.

“This is encouraging news for California’s economic recovery and our future prosperity,” said Brian Stanke, Executive Director of Californians For High Speed Rail. “The federal government has made its down payment on high speed rail here in California. We expect that this will be just the first of many such announcements over the coming decade as we build high speed rail.”

The federal government announced that California will receive $2.25 billion in stimulus funds for work on four segments of the high speed rail project: San Francisco to San Jose, Merced to Fresno, Fresno to Bakersfield, and Los Angeles to Anaheim. In addition, $99.4 million will be spent to upgrade existing passenger rail service along the Capitol Corridor between San Jose and Sacramento and the Pacific Surfliners in between Santa Barbara and San Diego.

“When California voters approved Proposition 1A in November 2008, it made high speed rail a reality,” said Robert Cruickshank, Chairman of Californians For High Speed Rail. “The federal government has rewarded that support with this significant commitment of funds. We need to ensure that these funds get out the door as quickly as possible to get the high speed rail project under construction and meet federal stimulus deadlines. These funds will help create desperately needed jobs across California, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and address the climate crisis while building a sustainable transportation network that saves Californians money. I can’t imagine a better way to get California moving again.”

Building on the momentum of stimulus funding, Californians For High Speed Rail plans to continue lobbying for more federal funding to complete the high speed rail project. “California is eligible for some of the $2.5 billion Congress appropriated last month for high speed rail, and we plan to lobby to convince the Administration to release these funds quickly,” said Mr. Stanke “Congress also needs to ensure that the jobs bill under consideration includes several billion more for high speed rail in the near term. Additionally, we urge California’s Congressional delegation to ensure the next transportation bill is passed this year and that it includes a sustainable, long-term funding source for high speed rail projects.”

6 thoughts on “California Gets Big High Speed Rail Stimulus Award”

  1. Wonder why BART doesn’t go all the way around the Bay? There is your answer. It does not surprise that they would oppose HSR coming anywhere near their towns.  

  2. Will any of this change the current right of way rules? It was my understanding that the rails were public domain at some point. Now one of the largest complaints from passenger service groups is that commercial traffic has taken over and will not allow scheduling of efficient transportation. Does anyone have any input to that?  

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