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How Uncle Sam's Belt Tightening Affects Your Bullet Train

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The Feds just slashed trillions in spending and high-speed rail programs took a big cut. The New York Times reports that all the money for the national high-speed programs was zeroed out for this year and $400 million was taken back from the money allocated from last year. The San Jose Mercury-News says the cuts won't likely affect construction in the Central Valley that's supposed to begin next year, but, "The totality of the effect could be a delay in building the section after Merced to Bakersfield," and into the Bay Area and Southern California, Quentin Kopp, a former chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, told the Mercury-News. But Jeffrey Barker, a spokesman for the CHSRA, says even with the budget cut, California is still in a good place to move construction along--you can thank Florida.

"None of the money California has been awarded is affected," Barker says. "What the reduction in funds means, effectively, is that there is a $2 billion pot of money for California to compete for, instead of the $2.43 billion from Florida’s re-allocated funds. (That’s because the federal budget also reclaimed $400 million from the Fiscal Year 2010 budget. This will come from the $800 million in FY ’10 money that Florida had returned.) That’s still a positive for California because it’s $2 billion we previously didn’t know we’d have an opportunity to compete for? and really, we’re far ahead of where we thought we’d be at this point because just 18 months ago, California had $0 for high-speed rail with no construction starting point in sight."

Barker says the Authority will likely hear this month about the Florida funds--and how much of that money will they need to stretch the line further toward SF or LA?

"If we match the funds by 20 percent (which is what our Board voted to do), then we would need $1.44 billion of the Florida funds to complete the Merced-Bakersfield stretch of track and stations," Barker says. "If we get less then we’ll build a little less with it and look [for] the additional funds in the next round of grants."
· Budget Deal Cuts Deeply Into High-Speed Rail [NY Times]
· High-Speed Rail Targeted in Budget [Mercury-News]
· What Could Florida's High-Speed Rail Money Do for Florida? [Curbed LA]