Trump WH "explores all legal options" to recover money from a former California high-speed train project

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it was exploring "all legal options" to recover $ 2.5 billion of federal funds spent by California for its now-defunct high-speed train project. , and also its intention to cancel federal grants of $ 928 million paid for the Los Angeles-San Francisco Bay Area Link Project.

The decision was a dramatic escalation in the war of words and the current policy between California and the White House. California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said in his State of the State address last week that he was setting aside his plans for the onerous project, admitting that "as currently planned, [it] would cost too much and take too much time. "

Republican lawmakers in the Golden State have called for a referendum vote on the Newsom project to build a much shorter, 171 km long railroad in the central valley of the state.

In a letter, Ronald Batory, director of the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), said Newsom's remarks were "a significant step back from the initial vision and commitment of the State and thwarted the purpose for which federal funding had been granted in the large high-speed rail system ".

Batory, writing to the California HSR Authority (CHSRA), has also accused the state of having "materially breached its obligation" to respect its agreement to provide substantial counterpart funding to the project in recent months. . For example, noted Batory, California is committed to spending $ 141.8 million to "advance final design and construction activities" on the high-speed rail network in December 2018, but n & # 39; 39; finally recorded that spending of $ 47.9 million.

This December 2017 archive photo shows one of the elevated sections of the high-speed train under construction in Fresno, California (AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli, File)

This December 2017 archive photo shows one of the elevated sections of the high-speed train under construction in Fresno, California (AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli, File)


In addition, the letter stated that the project would not have been completed by 2022, when the State would have agreed to complete the work.

The termination of the agreement is expected to come into effect on March 5, although Batory has offered the California authorities the opportunity to challenge the government's findings.

The high speed train has been considered for years as a project in difficulty and problematic. According to a calendar created by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), California voters "approved for the first time, in 2008, a $ 9.95 billion bond for a first high-speed rail project". A duration of 800 km – estimated at $ 35 billion – to be completed by 2020. "

In 2014, construction had not yet begun, but in his speech on the state of the state, then governor. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, "ad-libbed [a] summary of the Little Motor that Could, singing in rhythm its signature line, "I think I can do it", four times. "

In 2017, Orange County Register wrote: "More time and tens of billions of dollars more than expected when California voters approved the funding measure in 2008".

Finally, Newsom announced this month: "Let's be real. The current project, as planned, would cost too much and take too much time respectfully. There was too little monitoring and not enough transparency. "

Constant delays and excessive spending have made California Democrats a preferred target of the White House. On Tuesday, Trump mocked California for joining 15 other states by suing the administration against its recent emergency declaration – and added a comment on the railroad project. (The $ 77 billion project would save $ 20 to $ 25 billion on the cost of a wall at the border.)

"As I predicted, 16 states, mostly run by democrats from the open border and the radical left, filed suit in the 9th circuit! California, the state that wasted Billion dollars in his fast train uncontrollable, with no hope of completion, seems in charge! "he tweeted.

Last week, Trump and Newsom publicly discussed the sudden withdrawal of the governor from the railway construction pact.

In a tweet, Trump wrote, "California was forced to cancel this huge high-speed rail project after spending and wasting billions of dollars. They owe the federal government three and a half billion dollars. We want to get that money back now. The whole project is a "green" disaster! "

Newsom replied 40 minutes later.

"False news," Newsom writes. "We are building a high-speed train connecting the central valley and beyond. This is the CA money allocated by Congress to this project. We will not do it. The train leaves the station – better board! (Also, desperately looking for a wall $$ ??) "


In a statement, CAGW President Tom Schatz said that there were bigger lessons to be learned from the debacle.

"The California high-speed train has quickly become a no-fault train at taxpayers' expense," said Schatz, "This failed mess should be seen as a giant and red stop sign for any politician who supports the" Green New Deal "and its equally dubious promise to stop air travel by forcing taxpayers to pay for a California-style rail system across the country."

Kelly Chernenkoff, Adam Shaw, Frank Miles and Andrew O'Neill from Fox News contributed to this report.

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