SACRAMENTO, Calif. , June 30, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. High Speed Rail Coalition today praised California Governor Gavin Newsom and the State Legislature for agreeing to a record $300 billion state budget that includes $4.2 billion in critical funding to advance the state's high-speed rail project.
"California's political leaders listened to voters and stepped up for the future of high-speed rail," said Ray LaHood.
The State Senate and Assembly passed the budget late Wednesday and sent it to the Governor for signing.
The agreement on a multi-year funding plan signals growing momentum for high-speed rail in California. And it comes as high-speed rail projects around the country are advancing and as Congress considers the pending budget reconciliation bill, which includes $10 billion in dedicated funding for high-speed rail projects.
Additional budget support for high-speed rail in California comes as U.S. consumers are growing increasingly frustrated with spiraling gas prices as well as exorbitant airline ticket prices, flight cancellations and delays.
The $4.2 billion will go toward completion of electrified high-speed rail service between Merced and Bakersfield in California's Central Valley. In addition to funding for high-speed rail, the state budget for FY 2022-23 includes $10.8 billion in major transit investments and other transportation funding.
Also included in the budget is the appointment of an Inspector General to conduct audits and reviews and provide oversight of the high-speed rail project.
"California's political leaders listened to voters and stepped up for the future of high-speed rail," said Ray LaHood, former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary and Coalition Co-Chair. "I am gratified that funding for this critical legacy project will be expanded, creating new job opportunities and leading the way not only for California but for the country."
A recent UC Berkeley-Los Angeles Times poll showed that 56% of California voters continue to back construction of high-speed rail, 14 years after voters approved Proposition 1A to launch the project. The $4.2 billion is part of the original bond funding from Prop. 1A.
Over the past four months, the Coalition has mobilized its members to advocate for greater funding for high-speed rail in California. In a letter to Senate and Assembly leaders, the Coalition urged them to approve the $4.2 billion appropriation and give "the Biden Administration an incentive to provide significant federal investments for the project."
The letter was signed by LaHood; Coalition Co-Chairs, former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and California High Speed Rail Authority Chair Emeritus Rod Diridon; and leading businesses, unions and industry and nonprofit organizations.
Completing high-speed rail in California is critical to ensure mobility for the state's growing population—projected to reach 50 million by 2050—to reduce toxic carbon emissions and to meet its ambitious clean-energy goals. Transportation accounts for 40% of California's carbon emissions; high-speed rail will remove the equivalent of more than 400,000 cars from roads each year, while helping to end dependence on fossil fuels. Any alternative to a statewide high-speed rail network, such as adding freeway lanes or airport runways, would cost more than twice as much as high-speed rail and dramatically increase carbon emissions.
SOURCE U.S. HIGH SPEED RAIL COALITION