California high-speed train wins $25m US grant, seeks $1.3bn more

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – California’s High-Speed ​​Rail Authority said on Thursday it had secured $25 million in new federal grants to advance its project beyond 119 miles under construction, while seeking additional reward of $1.3 billion.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) grant will provide more than half of an estimated $41 million for a design contract to connect the cities of Madera and Merced. Last fall, the Biden administration awarded him $24 million “for critical safety, efficiency and construction projects” around Wasco, Calif.

The new grant helps fund “the design of civil infrastructure, track and system, and station platforms,” ​​the USDOT said. The project “is expected to reduce vehicle miles traveled by more than 200 million miles per year, and the high-speed rail system will run on fully renewable energy,” he added.

Rail will eventually travel from San Francisco to the Los Angeles Basin at over 200 miles per hour (322 km/h) in less than three hours. The fastest US passenger train, the Acela on the Northeast Corridor, travels up to 150 miles per hour, but aging infrastructure prevents that top speed for much of the route.

California is seeking $1.3 billion in federal grants to double 119 miles under construction and buy new trains.

Congress approved $66 billion for rail as part of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill of 2021, with Amtrak receiving $22 billion and $36 billion allocated for competitive grants.

In June 2021, the Biden administration reinstated a $929 million grant for the project. In 2019, then-President Donald Trump withdrew funding for the project, hampered by delays and rising costs, calling it a “disaster”.

Biden was nicknamed “Amtrak Joe” for shuttling between his home state of Delaware and Washington for decades as a U.S. senator. He called the revival of rail a crucial part of his strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce traffic congestion.

California touts its system as the first high-speed rail project in the United States, aiming to begin operations in 2029 and complete much of it by 2033. The cost was estimated at $80 billion in 2020, but in February, the authority said costs could ultimately reach $105 billion.

California voters approved the initial $10 billion bond for the project in 2008, and $3.5 billion in federal grants were allocated two years later.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Richard Chang)

Jose P. Rogers