By Dan Walters
March 2, 2017 – 3:59 PM
Late Wednesday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority dispatched a report to the Legislature, crowing about progress in building a statewide bullet train system.
It boasted of spending $2.3 billion so far on an initial 119-mile segment in the San Joaquin Valley “that will bring passenger rail service to connect the Central Valley to the Silicon Valley by 2025.”
The report implies that the bullet train, a high priority legacy project for Gov. Jerry Brown, is on a fast track to completion.
However, the financially challenged project had just suffered two immense hits, either of which could be fatal.
Just hours before the report was issued, results of the state’s latest cap-and-trade auction of greenhouse gas emission allowances – the only source of ongoing bullet train funds – were released and once again it produced almost no money.
Moreover, the report was aired just days after the Trump administration had put an indefinite hold on a $647 million grant for electrifying the Caltrain commuter rail service on the San Francisco Peninsula, a major component of the “blended” bullet train system.
Republican congressmen opposed to the bullet train had attacked the grant, knowing that without it, the $2 billon electrification project could die, and along with it, the larger system.
The $2.3 billion that the bullet train report boasts of spending is virtually all federal money, part of a $3.48 billion grant by the Obama administration for the $7.8 billion San Joaquin Valley segment. The state was supposed to match the federal grant but has not put up its share yet thanks to a waiver, but sooner or later will be on the hook.
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