As newly elected Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio threaten to reject hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to build desperately needed high speed rail projects, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have stepped up to call on those funds to be redirected to California should they become available. Here's the full text of the letter as emailed to me today by Senator Feinstein's office:
The Honorable Ray LaHood
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary LaHood:
It has come to our attention that several states plan to cancel their high-speed rail projects. We ask that you withdraw the Federal grants to these states and award the funds to states that have made a strong financial commitment to these very important infastructure projects.
California voters have committed over $9 billion in bonds to high-speed rail, putting our state in a unique position to advance this initiative quickly. Our state's plan has widespread, bipartisan support because of the impressive potential for job growth, its impact on energy independence and its transformational role in how Californians move throughout the state. No other state is as ready, as able, or as determined to develop a high-speed rail system in the near future.
California stands ready to be a pioneering partner with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Awarding our state's plan with these funds would have the greatest and most immediate impact in advancing the kind of high-speed rail system envisioned by both California and the Obama Administration.
Thank you for considering this request. We look forward to working with you on this matter.
United States Senator
United States Senator
This is an excellent move by California's two Senators. The people of California have twice now shown their support for high speed rail, both with the approval of Prop 1A in November 2008 and their rejection of anti-HSR candidate Meg Whitman in the November 2010 election. Recent polling from across California and on the Peninsula shows HSR is still widely popular.
Californians understand that high speed rail is necessary to the state's economic recovery – we want the jobs it will bring. Californians understand that high speed rail is necessary to improve our transportation system – we want the fast, reliable, convenient travel options it will bring. Californians understand that high speed rail is necessary to improve our environment and deliver energy independence – we want to slow global warming and reduce carbon emissions by using high speed rail.
We also want to see a broader national HSR system built. We need to improve passenger rail across the country, and that includes states like Wisconsin and Ohio. It's worse than shameful – it is tragic – if their right-wing governors want to shackle their states to driving and risk their economic futures through dependence on oil. But if they do succeed in rejecting the money, it ought to be redirected to a state where the HSR plans are sufficiently advanced where we can put it to immediate use – and that's here in California.
With Republicans like new House Transportation Committee chair John Mica agreeing that California's HSR project is worth funding, now is the time to increase our funding allocation. If that comes from states whose governors foolishly rejected it, well, at least we know the money will be used effectively.