California High-Speed Rail Agency Sues Trump Administration

by | May 21, 2019 AT 4:23 PM
A section of the California high-speed rail system under construction near Fresno, seen here in December 2017. (AP/Rich Pedroncelli)

By Ralph Vartabedian

California's high-speed rail agency announced Tuesday it is suing the federal government over the Trump administration's decision to terminate a $929 million grant for the state's beleaguered bullet train.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Sacramento, further escalates the conflict between California and the Trump administration over a project that aims to make the state a leader in advanced transportation but has been hobbled by delays and cost overruns.

Along with challenging the grant decision, California plans to seek a temporary restraining order to prevent the federal government for using the California high-speed rail money for other projects.

The action by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California High-Speed Rail Authority wasn't completely unexpected, since Newsom vowed last week to commence legal action after the Federal Railroad Administration announced it was terminating the $929 million.

The grant has not been paid out and the state had not expected to begin tapping the money until about 2021.

The FRA had justified its termination in a 25-page letter to state officials, outlining what it believed were a wide range of violations of a 2010 agreement with the state.

But California rail officials had responded earlier to the federal government, arguing that the state was in substantial compliance with the grant terms.

The Trump administration has vowed to also claw back a $2.5 billion grant for the bullet train, which was fully spent by the state by 2017. U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao criticized California in a speech earlier this year, calling Newsom's plan to scale back the project a "classic bait and switch."

(c)2019 Los Angeles Times