No new earmarked federal infrastructure funds for California bullet train, but still possibly billions of dollars in additional funding to be available

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high speed rail construction update
Construction image from CHSRA

California’s high speed rail initiative doesn’t see any specific mention or financial carve-outs in the approximately $1 billion bipartisan federal infrastructure funding initiative, but that doesn’t mean the project won’t benefit from significant infrastructure funding, officials say.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), a senior member for the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, said he is assessing what language in the lengthy bill may help the project.

“We are trying to figure out how it might affect California,” he was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times. “There is no carve-out for California that we can find, but one word can change that.”

At best, the legislation could fund tens of billions of dollars in new passenger rail programs, but much of that is either already dedicated to other states or will be subject to fierce future competition among all the states, the published report says.

Brian Kelly, chief executive of the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), said at a CHSRA board meeting earlier this month that he has identified six potential programs that will get additional funding from the infrastructure bill that could help fund the California bullet train.  Overall, the  programs contain about $21 billion in new money above previously appropriated funds.

“There is great opportunity before us here,” he said, adding that the future funding should become clear by the end of the month.

All of the $21 billion, which is embedded in intercity rail expansion, safety and grade crossing programs, could be up for grabs by other states, as well as competing rail programs across California, including a private effort to build a high-speed train to Las Vegas, the LA Times reported.

Based on a proportional poulation share, the state could receive about $2.5 billion of new money and upwards of $4.3 billion of money that has already been appropriated.This would stabilize the CHSRA’s budget as the existing $22.8 billion budget experiences increasing costs.  The bulk of the money would be used for work on a 171-mile operating system between Merced and Bakersfield.

However, this money wouldn’t be enough to fund construction of major links between the Central Valley and Southern California or the Bay Area. Those would cost tens of billions of dollars.

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