California Gets $2.35 Billion Stimulus For High Speed Rail and Other Passenger Rail

Tomorrow is going to be an excellent day for California High Speed Rail. Multiple sources have verified that California will receive $2.35 billion in federal passenger rail stimulus funds. $2.25 billion of that goes directly to high speed rail, the other $100 million goes to other passenger rail projects including some of the Amtrak California routes that Richard Tolmach threw a temper tantrum about back in fall 2009.

Here are the details as I have them – see more in the official White House release, which notes the awardees are both Caltrans AND the CHSRA: 

• $2.25 billion for high speed rail funding in the SF-SJ, Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield, and LA-Anaheim corridors, as well as for Phase I planning. There is some debate about whether these are specifically programmed to each corridor, or whether Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and/or the CHSRA will determine the final allocations.

• $99.4 million for other passenger rail projects, including:

Capitol Corridor-South Terminal Station Improvement
Capitol Corridor-YoloXover (Yolo West Crossover)
Capitol Corridor-Track Relocation
Pacific Surfliner -Railroad Crossover Program
Pacific Surfliner – Oceanside Stub Project 1
Pacific Surfliner Corridor-MOW Spurs
Los Angeles to Fullerton Triple Track
Pacific Surfliner Corridor-PE NEPA Ortega
Pacific Surfliner -Corridor Strategic Assessment
Rolling Stock-Locomotive Emissions Upgrade (including San Joaquins)
Rolling Stock-Cab Car Bicycle Storage

There is no specific detail about whether the Transbay Terminal got funded or not. That might be part of the “to be determined” portion of how the money is to be allocated, if the reports are true that the FRA is leaving that decision up to the state.

Still, this is a major victory for the California high speed rail project. $2.25 billion, with $100 million for other passenger rail, is an unprecedented level of federal investment in California rail.

It’s also a repudiation of the “go slow” argument on the Peninsula. Mayors Rich Cline of Menlo Park and Pat Burt of Palo Alto openly derided the value of stimulus, even as unemployed workers explained the desperate need for new jobs. President Obama has rejected this insane approach, and said that instead of going slow, we need to go much faster – at high speed.

Just as the November 2008 approval of Prop 1A by California voters signaled that high speed rail really was going to happen, the infusion of a significant amount of federal money is further proof that despite all the deniers and critics, HSR remains not just popular, but a major element of this country’s economic recovery plans.

It’s also a reminder that, as many of the experienced land use planners and infrastructure builders explained at last week’s Senate hearing, we’re currently at the most difficult part: hashing out the details of where exactly the trains go, and how exactly the tracks will be built. Once dirt is turned and steel put in the ground, all this difficulty will begin to fade.

We still have some way to go on this. And if indeed the Governor gets to decide how the $2.25 billion for HSR is allocated, some of the corridor battles are still yet to be fought. But it gives us another chance to advocate for getting this money out the door as fast as possible to ensure that we start putting people back to work, weaning California off of oil, addressing global warming, and building a 21st century transportation system.


This article originally appeared on the California High Speed Rail blog.