Assembly leadership fight has implications for high-speed rail – Streetsblog California
Assemblyman Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) announced Friday, just before Memorial Day weekend, that he had the votes to replace Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) as Assembly Speaker from California. The impact on California’s railroad modernization campaign, which Rendon blocked, is not entirely clear. But a Rivas presidency could bode well for California High-Speed Rail.
As indicated speak the Chronicle and other newspapers, it is unclear whether Rendon will go quietly. But since it ends in 2024, it’s certainly in Rivas’ interest to make a jump on the job.
As previously reported, Rendon led the charge to prevent the appropriation of $4.2 billion in Prop high-speed rail funds. 1A approved by voters. These funds are critical for laying track and electrifying the more than 100 miles of right-of-way, bridges and other works currently under construction in the Central Valley. Rendon’s justifications for blocking these funds have changed again and again.
According to Streetsblog, it would be hard to find a worse Democrat than Rendon when it comes to modernizing California’s rail system. President Rendon is a politician who traveled to the climate change conference in Scotland to complain about how California fails to reduce fossil fuel use, at the same time, he repeatedly tried to prevent the electrification of the state railroad system. He also appointed Assemblywoman Laura Friedman to chair the Transportation Committee, where she also blocked electrification and supported the continued use of polluting diesel trains in the Central Valley.
Streetsblog has reached out to Rivas staff to ask where they are on the high-speed train and will update this post if they respond. Officially, the latest version of Rivas expresses support, albeit generally, for the Governor’s May budget revision, which includes the $4.2 billion for the project.
But to engage in informed speculation, the Rivas district includes Morgan Hill and Gilroy, both located on the high-speed rail route between Central Valley and San Jose. As the image above shows, this means his district stands to gain directly, in the shorter term, from California’s railroad modernization project. And electrification is already well advanced between San Jose and San Francisco, with more than $700 million funded by HSR. Rivas voters would benefit from the high-speed connections and jobs generated by the project in the next phase, which would connect San Jose to Merced.
Meanwhile, in Washington, pressure continues to lock in funds for “true high-speed rail” projects (only the California project is considered a true high-speed rail project under construction). “A group of 75 lawmakers, including 65 House members led by Representatives Jim Costa, Seth Moulton and Suzan DelBene, and 10 senators led by Senator Jon Ossoff, are urging congressional officials to allocate $3.5 billion to the development of the high-speed rail corridor in the fiscal year 2023 budget,” it read. a recent letter from federal lawmakersincluding US Senators Padilla and Feinstein of California, in support of financing. The California High-Speed Rail Authority submitted two requests totaling $1.3 billion for federal grant funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, signed by President Biden in November. These funds would go a long way toward supplementing the $4.2 billion in public funds, if released, and allow California to begin operating the nation’s first trains at over 200 mph.