Stimulus Bill Debated by California High-Speed Rail Authority

The California High-Speed Rail Authority wants to determine what projects it can get stimulus bill funding for, but is lost because there are no requirements.

by / March 6, 2009

Sacramento, Calif. -- The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) met Thursday to discuss updates on federal funding and how it will attempt to obtain a chunk of the $8 billion dedicated for high-speed rail in President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill. The discussion at the meeting was full of speculation since requirements to receive the federal funding have yet to be set and won't be issued until as late as June 17, according to CHSRA Chairman Quentin Kopp.

California has been thought by many transportation experts as the state furthest along in plans to build a high-speed rail system. Californians approved Proposition 1A in November 2008, which authorized a $9 billion bond for the project. The estimated cost to build the 800-mile system -- which would link San Francisco to Los Angeles -- is $45 billion, according to the CHSRA Web site.

Like California, many state and local governments are finding themselves in limbo. They know there's funding out there to apply for, but the requirements to attain the federal money have yet to be announced.

CHSRA board member Lynn Schenk said as the authority has almost exhausted its operating budget, it's reaching a "dire situation." It might soon have to issue an order to stop work, but it would be bad timing since the stimulus bill is looking to fund shovel-ready projects as soon as possible.

"In order to really apply for these funds we must show progress," said Carrie Pourvahidi, deputy director of the CHSRA.

CHSRA Executive Director Mehdi Morshed brought a list of California projects to the meeting that he said would be of value to the state's high-speed rail, but were not being completed by the authority. One of the projects mentioned from the list was a high-speed rail hub that San Francisco asked the authority to fund in the city's Transbay Transit Center, which is currently under construction. However, the San Francisco rail platform is planned to handle four to five trains per hour, and the CHSRA wants all high-speed rail platforms to handle 12 trains per hour.

Elaine Rundle Staff Writer