Moving Forward at High Speed
As the final bipartisan federal infrastructure package continues to move forward, over the last few months, we have seen a renewed commitment by elected officials from around the country and here in California towards making clean, green and efficient high-speed rail in the U.S. a reality.
On July 16, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and Congressman Jim Costa, both of California, took a tour of high-speed rail construction in the Central Valley. They visited the award-winning San Joaquin River Viaduct and Pergola, located just north of the city of Fresno, and met with labor representatives, small business owners and regional economic development leaders. While on tour, Senator Padilla spoke with small business owner Paul Katchadourian. Paul’s company Katch Environmental is one of the more than 600 certified small businesses working on the high-speed rail project. His company has been providing hazardous remediation and demolition services since 2014 on the high-speed rail project.
Senator Padilla also showed his support for this iconic California project by penning a joint letter with Senator Feinstein that urges California’s legislative leaders to allocate the remaining $4.2 billion in voter-approved Proposition 1A bonds that Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing in the state budget. This appropriation will be used to fund currently underway construction work in the Central Valley and will allow the Authority to use the more flexible Cap-and-Trade funds for other program priorities over time. If the Legislature does not appropriate the remaining bond funds, it will result in a shutdown of construction sites in the Central Valley among other impacts. In the letter, the senators say, “Now is not the time for California to step back from its commitment to high-speed rail, a mode of transportation that is critical to reducing congestion and meeting our critically important climate goals.”
In support of ongoing and future high-speed rail projects across the U.S., in a letter earlier this summer to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders, a group of elected officials led by Congressman Jim Costa, Congressman Seth Moulton, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senators Kristen Gillibrand and Edward Markey called for a carve-out for dedicated high-speed rail funding. This letter of support was co-signed by an additional 75 members of congress including Senators Feinstein, Padilla, Warren and Wyden, and California Representatives Matsui, Garamendi, Khanna, Eshoo, McNerney, Lee, Peters, Brownley, Huffman, Swalwell and Takano. It lays out the economic, environmental and equity benefits a high-speed rail network will bring to America’s transportation network and the development of high-speed rail as a means to create good-paying jobs, foster long-term economic growth and deliver access to more opportunity for smaller communities.
The Authority continues to closely monitor federal action to determine what potential funding opportunities may arise when bill language is final. We appreciate the support as we continue to build the nation’s first high-speed rail project. As usual, California is leading the way.
Proposition 1A Funding Update
On May 14, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the remaining $4.2 billion in Proposition 1A funds for high-speed rail were included in the transportation package of the California Comeback Plan. These funds will be used to complete construction in the Central Valley, advance work to launch service between Merced & Bakersfield, and advance planning and project design to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim.
The 2020 Business Plan recommends that $4.1 billion be directed to complete delivery of the 119-mile segment in the Central Valley. The other $100 million would be used for early design and completing environmental review for the full San Francisco to Los Angeles Phase 1 segments. Access to these Proposition 1A funds will also allow the Authority to use the more flexible Cap-and-Trade funds for other program priorities over time.
California voters passed Proposition 1A in 2008, which provided legal guidelines and $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds for the project and related transportation projects, also known as bookend projects. As such, these funds do not come out of the General Fund, nor can those funds be allocated to another project or program.
Since 2017, the Department of Finance has approved four funding plans allowing access to a total of $3.7 billion in Proposition 1A funds. Specifically, $2.6 billion for the Central Valley segment, $600 million for the Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project, $77 million for the Rosecrans/Marquardt grade separation project, and $423 million for the Link Union Station (Link US) Project in Los Angeles. With the most recent funding plan in April 2020, the Authority has completed the allocation of all bookend project funding.
As of December 2020, the Authority has expended 99 percent of the authorized $2.6 billion of the Proposition 1A Central Valley segment funds, using the dollars directly for high-speed rail infrastructure. Without the additional $4.2 billion in bond funds, the Authority would be unable to complete construction, be forced to issue pink slips and see construction delays as contracts would have to be wound down and restarted later.
Negotiations for the final transportation package are still on-going between the Governor and legislative leadership. The $3.4 billion in funding for local/regional projects is only possible if subsequent legislative action is taken on the entire transportation package, including the $4.2 billion high-speed rail bond appropriation, or it will revert to the General Fund.
This funding is the first major infusion of State General Fund for transportation in over a decade and will improve the efficiency of transportation systems to make movement around the state safer, faster, and greener:
- $400 million for climate adaptation projects to build more resilient infrastructure and address transportation needs related to climate change.
- $500 million to support active transportation by improving safety and access for walking, biking, and mobility options for non-motorized users.
- $500 million to create a safer transportation system by targeting critical safety projects to address high priority grade separations and grade crossings.
- $1 billion to deliver critical projects in advance of the 2028 Olympic games and enhance the state’s transportation system.
- $1 billion to enhance connectivity through clean transportation investment in priority
Authority Board Approves High-Speed Rail Line Between Bakersfield and Palmdale