Last month, voters in Wisconsin and Ohio elected Republican governors who pledged to stop their state's high speed rail projects, even though they had won $1.2 billion in federal stimulus grants to begin the projects. On the same day, California voters overwhelmingly elected pro-HSR candidate Jerry Brown, who backed a bullet train proposal from LA to SD in the early 1980s, over the anti-HSR Meg Whitman.
Republicans in WI and OH wanted to redirect the federal stimulus funds to road projects, which is moronic – we need to fund 21st century infrastructure that liberates us from oil, rather than deepening our dependence on it. Jerry Brown and California voters – who themselves approved $10 billion in funds for HSR in 2008 – understand that we cannot have 21st century prosperity without it.
Brown's support for HSR was joined by Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, who along with California Democratic members of Congress wrote letters calling on the federal government to redirect that money from Wisconsin and Ohio to California.
Today, the US DOT did exactly that, redirecting $624 million in funding from Wisconsin and Ohio to California's high speed rail project. The remaining funds will go to 11 other states, but California has by far won the greatest share. All told, California has won nearly $4 billion in federal HSR funding in the last 12 months.
It's not clear yet what exactly the California HSR Authority will use the money to build, but it will almost certainly go to expand the first construction segment, currently linking Fresno and Hanford. The funding could be enough to get the tracks all the way to Bakersfield or Merced, a good starting point as we seek additional funds to complete the route from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
This is yet another example of how federal infrastructure stimulus is welcome here in California, where we understand that job creation and preparation for a 21st century economy go hand-in-hand. Kudos to our Senators and Congressional delegation for winning these funds – let's hope they keep up the fight for HSR funding in the coming years.
Learn more about this story and the HSR project at my California High Speed Rail Blog.