Ray LaHood Mounts Another Strong Defense of California HSR
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood traveled to Sacramento today to announce federal funding for a light rail extension to Cosumnes River College. While there, he made another strong defense of California’s high speed rail project:
“There’s no stopping high speed rail in California,” said the nation’s transportation secretary…
Secretary LaHood, a former GOP congressman from Illinois, recounted in an interview Monday that the state’s plans came up in the very first conversation he had with his fellow Illini – the president – after the November 6 election.
“The one thing the president mentioned to me was we need to get high speed rail, not only really on good footing in California, but we need to get it done,” said LaHood….
State rail officials said recently they remain optimistic, given that their plans don’t call for additional DC cash until 2015.
And LaHood, while not directly saying so on Monday, suggested that the Obama administration won’t put any of the other projects around the country – in the Midwest or the northeastern U.S. – ahead of California, if Congress eventually forces a prioritization of who gets money… and who doesn’t.
“Well, we have prioritized,” said the secretary. “California’s gotten the largest amount of money.”
LaHood’s comments today make it clear that President Obama remains strongly supportive not just of high speed rail in general, but of the California HSR project in particular. California HSR planners have pointed out that they don’t need additional federal money until 2015, which happens to be the earliest possible moment when federal funds are likely to be available since that’s the soonest that Democrats can reclaim the House of Representatives.
It’s still unclear whether LaHood will stay or go as Transportation Secretary. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is considered a front-runner if LaHood leaves, but it is becoming less clear that LaHood is planning to leave at all. Either way, this is another welcome vote of confidence in the project, even if the next two years don’t look any more promising for federal HSR funding than the last two.