US High Speed Rail Coalition praises California’s governor and Legislature for advancing state project

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The US High Speed Rail (USHSR) Coalition has praised California Governor Gavin Newsom and the State Legislature for agreeing to a record US$300bn state budget that includes US$4.2bn in critical funding to advance the state’s high-speed rail project.

The State Senate and Assembly passed the budget late Wednesday (June 29) 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 US$10 billion in dedicated funding for high-speed rail projects.

Additional budget support for high-speed rail in California also comes as US consumers are growing increasingly frustrated with spiraling gas prices as well as exorbitant airline ticket prices, flight cancellations and delays.

The US$4.2bn 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 US$10.8bn 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, according to USHSR.

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 US$4.2 billion is part of the original bond funding from Prop. 1A.

Over the past four months, the USHSR 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 US$4.2 billion appropriation and give “the Biden Administration an incentive to provide significant federal investments for the project.”

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, USHSR noted. 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.

USHSR’s vision includes a national HSR Express system consisting of state-of-the-art dedicated track, advanced control systems, elegant multi-modal train stations, and top-of-the-line 220 mph trains, as well as a feeder network of 110 mph trains. Its goal is to connect cities and states into an integrated system, laid out in phases with an aggressive schedule for full system build out.