A recent article in the Turlock Journal reported that the California High-Speed Rail Authority was granted an extension from the Federal Railroad Administration in paying $180 million it owed the FRA, and quoted Congressman Jeff Denham accusing the FRA of “protecting the Authority” by bypassing the current high-speed rail funding agreement in order to keep the project moving forward.
These assertions are wrong. Here is how the high-speed rail funding agreement works. Every quarter, the Authority submits an updated Funding Contribution Plan to the FRA as required by the high-speed rail funding agreement. The FCP must then be approved by the FRA to ensure that it is compliant with the grant agreement. This provides an extra level of oversight and protection of taxpayer funds. Claims of $180 million owed to the FRA are not based on facts.
The agreement for high-speed rail funding using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Prop 1A fund started in 2010 and runs through 2017. A funding agreement of this magnitude must be a “living document” that addresses issues on a real-time basis. This makes good business sense.
Amid this confusion it’s easy to overlook the benefits high-speed rail will provide for the Central Valley, including creating thousands of jobs, linking Valley cities and their residents to the rest of the state, contributing to cleaner air, and preserving precious farmland. The fact is that high-speed rail offers the only viable solution to the demands of population growth and challenges created by a transportation infrastructure already at capacity. Adding more lanes to highways and runways to airports would cost two to three times more than high-speed rail while significantly worsening air pollution. Transformative projects like high-speed rail are never easy, but their long-term benefits are beyond dispute.
— Alley is Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.