SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The California High Speed Rail authority may soon not be able to spend federal funds on the project under its current $3 billion matching grant with the federal government.
On Tuesday evening the House of Representatives passed an amendment calling for the nullification of the dollar-for-dollar agreement between the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the California High Speed Rail Authority.
The agreement stipulated that for every dollar the federal government spent, the Authority had to also spend a dollar, according to Jordan Langdon, communications director for Congressman Jeff Denham.
In 2012, after California missed several payment deadlines, the FRA amended the agreement and allowed for a tapered match, or for federal dollars to be spent in advance of California’s matching dollars, says Langdon. However, FRA’s Inspector General criticized FRA for this agreement that, Landgon says, jeopardized federal taxpayer dollars.
The amendment would guarantee the FRA must enter into an agreement that requires the Authority to match spending on the project in current fiscal years.
“This amendment will finally hold California High Speed Rail accountable for its finances,” said Rep. Denham. “The project is several decades behind schedule, nearly $70 billion over budget, and will not meet the speeds, travel times, or ridership levels promised to voters. No longer will they be able to accept a hamburger today for payment on Tuesday.”
The amendment is now headed to the Senate for approval.
In response to the vote, Authority Chair Dan Richard said:
“This amendment would have no material impact on California’s high-speed rail program, even in the unlikely event that it is enacted. Similar efforts by Chairman Denham and others have already been rebuffed several times,” said Chair Dan Richard. “The bottom line is that high-speed rail is under construction, putting 219 small businesses and 32 Disabled Veteran Businesses to work pursuant to a strong contractual grant agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration. While these amendments may have achieved a desired political effect, we remain focused on making California’s rail network more efficient and clean, while increasing safety by implementing Positive Train Control and creating 55 new grade crossings. We do not expect Chairman Denham’s amendment to be enacted into law and urge him to work with us, rather than against, to achieve these goals.”