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Santa Monica Lawmaker Backs Transportation Funding Lawsuit
By Jorge Casuso
May 17, 2019 -- Santa Monica Assemblymember Richard Bloom on Friday backed California Governor Gavin Newsom's decision to wage a legal battle over the nearly $1 billion in transportation funds the federal government pulled from the state's high-speed rail project.
Newsom's decision came shortly after the Federal Railroad Administration on Thursday canceled the funding that was slated to help pay for the $77 million project, which is the biggest transportation undertaking in the state since the Interstate Highway System.
Bloom, who chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation, called the administration's action "baseless and reckless."
"Despite being a small part of the funding, the federal government has been very particular in the planning of the project, resulting in many of the weaknesses and setbacks we see today in the project,” Bloom said in a statement.
“The high speed rail project delivers huge transportation, environmental, economic development and jobs benefits for California," the former Santa Monica mayor said.
"I urge Governor Newsom to fight this decision to the courts to keep the money."
The threatened lawsuit comes after President Trump followed through on his threat earlier this year to cancel the $929 million grant after Newsom said he would cut back on the bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
In his February 12 "State of the State" address, the governor said the project, which has been beset by years of delays and budget increases, would cost too much and take too long.
The section of the line slated for the Central Valley could still be built if California keeps the $3.5 building in federal transportation funding President Obama awarded the state, Newsom said.
“And by the way," he added, "I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump.”
"They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars," the President wrote. "We want that money back now. Whole project is a 'green' disaster."
Last year, the U.S. Transportation Department said the state had only identified $30.7 billion in funding, less than half of the estimated cost of the project.
In an emailed statement Thursday, Newsom called the administration's action "illegal and a direct assault on California."
"This is California's money, appropriated by Congress, and we will vigorously defend it in court," he wrote.
Russ Fong, the project's outgoing chief financial officer, called the administration's decision to pull the nearly $1 billion "devastating to the overall project," according to a report in AP.
"We have time to hopefully come to some type of resolution before those dollars are actually needed," he said of the money slated to be spent in 2021.
A leading critic of the project, Republican Assemblymember Jim Patterson, said California is witnessing "the beginning of the end" for high-speed rail, AP reported.
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