Trump wants California to pay back billions spent for high-speed train

Trump administration to cancel $929 million in California high-speed rail funding

"One week after Donald Trump called California's high-speed rail project a "'green' disaster", the US Department of Transportation announced plans to cancel $929m in federal grant funds that were yet to be paid toward the $77bn endeavor.

President Trump has taken aim at the rail line before, saying last week after Newsom announced his plans to scale back the project that California had already "wasted many billions of dollars" on it.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, "The failed Fast Train project in California, where the cost overruns are becoming world record setting, is hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!"

The Transportation Department said Tuesday that Newsom's plan "represents a significant retreat from the state's initial vision and commitment and frustrates the objective for which federal funding was awarded".

Jerry Brown listens during a visit to a neighborhood impacted by the wildfires in Paradise, Calif. California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the Trump administration is engaging in "political retribution" by trying to take back $3.5 billion granted for the state's high-speed rail project. His office said he still plans to complete the full line, although he said the current plan would cost too much and take too long.

Newsom said he planned to refocus the high-speed rail project to link Merced and Bakersfield, a Central California route that by auto can take up to three hours. "We're not giving it back", he tweeted last week in response to Trump's threats.

The initial San Joaquin Valley segment of the project, which has been under construction since 2015, is counting on more than $3 billion in federal funding, including the $928 million appropriated in 2010 and more than $2 billion in economic stimulus dollars approved by Congress the year before.

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Lenny Mendonca, right, was elected chairman of The California High-Speed Rail Authority's board of directors, during a board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif. But it has already spent the extra $2.5 billion that Trump now wants back.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said it is "actively exploring every legal option" to get back the money.

'It is time to move on from the broken high-speed rail project and redirect our efforts to infrastructure projects that work for Californians, ' said U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, a city on the train's route.

The FRA writes in the letter that the state "has materially failed to comply with the terms of the Agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the Project", which they said was supposed to be on track to be finished by 2022. The agreement states the federal government could offset the money it would pay California for different transportation or other projects.

Phase one, a 520-mile long endeavor connecting downtown San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Anaheim with cities in the Central Valley, was expected to be completed in 2029, but that has since been pushed to 2033.

There was no immediate comment from the Newsom Administration.

Hours later, the U.S. Department of Transportation told California it planned to cancel almost $1 billion in federal money allocated to the rail project and wanted the state to return $2.5 billion it had already spent.

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