Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom abandoned a high-speed rail project Tuesday that sought to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco.
He suggested the high cost of the project made the idea a pipe dream.
Newsom dialed back anticipation for the project during California’s State of the State address. The Democrat suggested building a high-speed rail line between Bakersfield and Merced — a distance of 160 miles — rather than a project designed to connect the state’s two largest cities.
“Let’s level about the high-speed rail,” Newsom said. “Let’s be real, the current project as planned would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were.”
Former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan would have cost nearly $77 billion and taken more than a decade to complete, according to recent estimates.
“Critics are going to say that’s a train to nowhere, but I think that’s wrong and that’s offensive,” said Newsom, who was elected after Brown was term-limited in November 2018.
“Abandoning the high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions and billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises … and lawsuits to show for it,” Newsom said, adding that he does not want to send the $3.5 billion in federal money allocated for the project back to the Trump administration.
The rail project has faced a lot of controversy throughout the years. Backers of a campaign to eliminate California’s most recent gas tax, for instance, pushed an initiative in 2018 directing Brown to halt the high-speed rail project and use any unspent funds on road improvements. (RELATED: California’s Gas Tax Opponents Push A Unique Way To Pay For Road Fixes)
Newsom’s decision to ditch the project comes at an awkward time for Democrats. A document posted online fleshing out elements of the so-called Green New Deal suggests Democrats are looking to “[b]uild out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.”
Some conservatives in the state are upset that the project will continue to exist in some form.
“Make no mistake about it: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement today is not about killing the wasteful High-Speed Rail Project, it is about keeping it very much alive,” Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, said in a press statement Tuesday. “Newsom wants to spend tens of billions on a rail line between Merced and Bakersfield — a complete waste.”
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