“California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” Trump tweeted. “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!”
The $77 billion bullet train project, a planned system linking San Francisco to Los Angeles, has faced cost overruns and delays. California Gov. Gavin Newsom at his first state of the state address Tuesday announced a scale back of the high-speed rail project, saying the current plan “would cost too much and take too long.”
However, Newsom responded to Trump’s tweet Wednesday by calling it “fake news. We’re building high-speed rail, connecting the Central Valley and beyond.”
The Democratic governor also suggested in the tweet that Trump was “desperately searching” for some border wall money.
Newsom said Tuesday during his address at the State Capitol in Sacramento that he approved of going ahead with part of the high-speed rail link — a section between Merced and Bakersfield. He said the state can work toward connecting the Central Valley to other parts of California while also seeking more federal funding and private money.
A decade ago, California voters approved Proposition 1A, authorizing nearly $10 billion in bond money for the construction of the high-speed rail system expected to travel at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour. The state also was awarded about $3.5 billion in federal funds in 2010 to help with the project.
Construction on the 119-mile Central Valley segment of the fast-speed rail line began in 2013. The 520-mile rail system from the San Francisco Bay Area to LA wasn’t expected to begin operating until the 2030s.
Newsom acknowledged Tuesday that if the state abandoned the project, it could be forced to give back billions of dollars to the federal government.
“I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump,” Newsom said. “Nor am I interested in repeating the same old mistakes.”
An audit last year faulted California’s High-Speed Rail Authority for “flawed decision making and poor contract management.” A business plan released in early 2018 showed its projected baseline cost soared by up to 20 percent from two years earlier and indicated the cost could rise to nearly $100 billion.
The governor ordered “new transparency measures” on the rail project and said the state will “hold contractors and consultants accountable.”
Newsom, who took office Jan. 7, has been outspoken against Trump for everything from immigration to climate change. He has also blasted the Republican president for threatening to withhold federal funds to the state for wildfire relief.