Federal Transit Administration Halts Major California Rail Development
On Friday, the United States Federal Transit Administration delayed a decision over the approval of a $650 million federal grant towards the electrification of a train system in the San Francisco Bay area which would further assist the development of California’s high-speed rail project.
Apparently, Congressional Republicans pressured the administration to reject the present application from Caltrain, deferring a ruling on the due date in order to consider the project in line with Donald Trump’s proposed budget. This ruling came in the form of a letter, in which no timeline was given on any future decision. Accordingly, spokeswoman Angela Gates commented that the project would now be reviewed along with the president’s other fiscal 2018 budget proposals and considerations.
Obviously, rail line officials had been hoping for electrification funding approvals as soon as possible so they could begin contract bidding as early as March.
Indeed, Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy remarks that this ruling is a major disappointment that could actually put the project—as a whole—at risk and jeopardize as many as 10,000 jobs through maybe 6 or 7 states in the process. This includes at least 500 jobs in Utah, where they are waiting to open a manufacturing facility for building new rail cars.
“It really isn’t about the Caltrain project or any question about controversy surrounding our project. It’s about billions of dollars of projects that are already in the pipeline,” Murphy notes. He adds that this is probably more a question of whether or not the administration is going to keep investing in such transit projects similar to the ways it has been done in the past.
Of course, supporters of Caltrain were taken greatly aback by the announcement, Friday.
“I think today I heard a big door slam and I don’t remember the last time I have felt this dejected for the people of our region. The agencies, the people, the community, the business community, the environmental community, the chambers of commerce [and] riders,” comments U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto. She adds, “It’s just a crushing blow and what rubs salt into the wound is this is just straight politics, straight partisan politics. They did it because they could.”
Murphy goes on to say,“This was the final decision needed to move forward with a project that will transform the way we experience transportation on the Peninsula…It will be unfortunate if the only thing standing in the way of moving forward with those benefits is a signature from the administration. We’re not sure if this project, in the state of readiness that it’s in today, can survive an unknown period of delay.”