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Denham to introduce bill suspending federal money on high speed rail
Jeff Denham

With funding issues continuing to hinder the progress of the California High Speed Rail, Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) has committed himself to suspending federal spending on the project. According to Rep. Denham, due to the state’s inability to match federal spending on the project, California could be at risk of losing funds for other state priorities, including education and water.

In a transportation and infrastructure subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Denham shared that he would be introducing legislation this week aiming to suspend federal spending on California’s High Speed Rail project, asserting that the High Speed Rail Authority has failed to secure state and private dollars.

“This is about priorities,” said Denham, chairman of the transportation and infrastructure subcommittee on railroads, pipelines, and hazardous materials. “Continued spending of federal dollars on high speed rail when the California High Speed Rail Authority has no viable method of generating state funds puts all federal money for the state of California in jeopardy. The federal government can and would withhold money for other top infrastructure priorities, such as education and water, from the state of California, should the state fail to provide state funds.”

Under the grant agreement between the Federal Railroad Administration and the High Speed Rail Authority, federal spending must be matched by state bonds. To date, the federal government has committed roughly $3.4 billion to the project.

State funding issues have continually stalled the High Speed Rail project, as Sacramento judge Michael Kenny denied the Authority’s funding plan and ruled that the Authority could not issue their requested roughly $10 billion in Prop1A bonds in November. The ruling has left the Authority without a path to generate the state money which is required under the FRA agreement.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Karen Hudlend, deputy administrator of the FRA and Alissa Dolan of the Congressional Research Service both confirmed that should the Authority default on its commitment to provide state funds for the rail project, the federal government would withhold the funds for other key California needs.

“This is why this is such a big issue for California,” said Denham. “This is not just an endless pot of money, this is not just free money…We have priorities. We’re dealing with budgets. We have to be good stewards of the federal taxpayer’s dollar.”

High speed rail concerns have been a major point of interest for Denham this past week, as the Congressman also took to social media website Twitter on Tuesday, holding an online town hall meeting where constituents could ask the Congressman questions regarding the California High Speed Rail project. Several concerns and questions were also addressed by Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford).