California’s Brown Pegs Bullet Train Future to Democratic Wave

California’s $77 billion high-speed rail project, which has been dogged by cost overruns and delays, could receive much-needed federal funding if Democrats take control of Congress in November, Governor Jerry Brown said Wednesday.

California’s Bullet Train

Project: California High-Speed Rail
Authority: California High-Speed Rail Authority
Total Funding Phase I: $64.2 billion
Project Status: In January 2015, construction started on
a 32-mile segment of the Initial Operating Section of the
HSR from Madera to North of Bakersfield. The cost is
$6 billion, paid for by $3.3 billion in federal funding and
$2.6 billion in Proposition 1A bond proceeds.
Project Completion Targets:
Phase I: 2025
Phase II: 2029

“When the Congress shifts” and lawmakers draft an infrastructure bill, Brown said he is optimistic they will provide $6 billion for a phase of the project that would help pay for building a 13.5 mile-long tunnel in the mountains between Fresno and San Jose.

“It needs obviously more money,” Brown, an 80-year-old Democrat, said in an interview in his statehouse office in Sacramento. “I think it has a good chance of being there.”

Brown’s hope underscores the tenuous nature of future financing for the bullet train, which has repeatedly seen its costs rise since voters in 2008 approved almost $10 billion of general obligation bonds to jump-start construction. The project has always relied on a mix of state bond money, federal funding and private investment. Republicans in charge of Congress have refused to fork over any additional money beyond the $3 billion granted during the Obama administration.

Democrats are battling to take back control of Congress in November, when every House seat is on the ballot, along with a third of Senate seats. The party is counting on a voting base energized by anger at President Donald Trump to win the 23 seats Democrats would need to gain a majority in the House.

If the bullet train is completed, passengers will be able to travel at speeds of more than 200 miles an hour between San Francisco and Anaheim, south of Los Angeles. The project depends on a pair of tunnels bored through the Diablo mountain range that would connect the San Jose and San Francisco region to the state’s Central Valley. The agency building the system says it is too early to tell how much the tunnels would cost to build. When completed, the 28-foot diameter tunnels would be some of the longest rail tunnels in North America.

Brown will leave office at the end of the year after serving an unprecedented four terms as California governor.

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