Newsom doubles down on high-speed rail funding, pledges $4.2B to finish Central Valley segment

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest budget proposal doubles down on billions of dollars in contentious funding for the San Joaquin Valley segment of the high-speed rail project and expands the state’s initiative to replace gas-powered vehicles with zero-emission.

The latest figures are part of the governor’s $286.4-billion spending proposal released earlier this week – with $9.1 billion going towards transportation infrastructure – which the governor says is part of the state’s concerted effort to reduce California’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The budget proposal functions as a wish list as the governor enters into negotiations with lawmakers ahead of a June deadline for the 2022-2023 budget.

But the proposed $4.2 billion in high-speed rail funding has been mired in controversy. It is the final tranche of $9.9 billion in bond funds for the high-speed rail, which voters approved in 2008’s Proposition 1A on the promise that they would see a bullet train connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes. That’s not what voters are getting.

Instead, Newsom is seeking to secure the $4.2 billion to finish a 119-mile segment in Fresno, Kern, Madera, and Kings counties, even as some Democrats say the funding should be used for projects aimed at urban centers in the Bay Area and Southern California, not a less-populated stretch of the Central Valley.

“Let’s get the job done. Let’s finish the Central Valley component,” Newsom said Thursday during a news conference at the Santa Clara rail depot. “The voters set aside the money for this purpose, I want to get those dollars out from Prop 1A and finish that job. Doing it in a fast and judicious way.”

Last year Newsom failed to secure the funding for the Central Valley project as it met strong headwinds from Democratic leaders, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who represents areas in southern Los Angeles County.

“The fact that the state currently has high revenues does not relieve us of the responsibility to target those revenues – both to the people who need it most and to the places where it will do the most good,” Rendon said in a statement on Thursday, adding that he “looks forward to more discussions” on the matter.

SANTA CLARA, CA – JANUARY 13: California Governor Gavin Newsom heads out after speaking during a news conference held at the Santa Clara Railroad Depot museum and Caltrain station in Santa Clara, on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2021. Newsom was on hand to highlight significant transportation and infrastructure investments in the California Blueprint. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) 

According to Boris Lipkin the Northern California regional director at California High-Speed Rail Authority, the high-speed rail project is currently coasting on revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program, but the delay in bond revenue will have “a big domino effect with the rest of the state.”

The funding “was important last year and has already led to some delays,” Lipkin said. “But it’s critical this year.”

The governor is also adding $6.1 billion over five years to support the adoption of zero-emission …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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