California Gets $300 Million of Florida’s HSR Money
When Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal high speed rail funding, it set up the possibility that California could reap a big windfall that helps us build out our HSR project. And so we have. Today Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced California will get $300 million of that money:
California – Central Valley Construction Project Extension – $300 million for a 20-mile extension along the Central Valley Corridor. This will continue to advance one of the highest priority projects in the nation that will ultimately provide 220 mph high-speed rail service from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The work funded in this round will extend the track and civil work from Fresno to the “Wye” junction, which will provide a connection to San Jose to the West and Merced to the North.
It’s not as much as California wanted – an application was submitted for all $2.4 billion – but it is a sign of further federal support for the project, and is welcome news.
The bulk of the funds went to the Northeast Corridor ($800 million) and the Midwest ($400 million). Given the need to keep Senators and Congressmen from other states happy and supportive of the HSR project – especially after Republicans demanded and won huge cuts to federal HSR funds – this move should be no surprise, and may even be good for California HSR in that it helps build political support for HSR in more states and among more members of Congress.
I’m sure some will be disappointed with the fact that California didn’t get a larger share. That would have been nice, but with so many other states competing, it may not have been all that realistic. Some may also read into this a slap at the California project. I’m not sure that’s warranted, but we should be at least a bit concerned that NIMBYism and HSR denial is starting to creep its way into the state legislature, and could undermine the project if not stopped.
Still, the bigger need is for more federal funding – a lot more. Clearly there is nationwide demand for HSR, and teabaggers won’t govern Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida forever. Congress made a big mistake cutting HSR funds and President Barack Obama made an even bigger mistake agreeing to those cuts. The White House may have decided to use the Florida HSR funds to rebuild political support in Congress for HSR funding. If that means California gets a smaller share today, but results in more federal funding in the years to come, then it’s definitely worth it.