California Gov. Newsom discusses future of state’s high-speed rail plan, which voters authorized $9.95 billion for in 2008

In his State of the State address, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said the state’s high-speed rail project between San Francisco and Los Angeles “would cost too much and take too long.” Newsom said he wanted a portion of the high-speed rail, from Merced and Bakersfield, to be prioritized. The governor’s spokesperson Nathan Click later said, “The state will continue undertaking the broader project—completing the bookend projects and finishing the environmental review for the SF to LA leg—that would allow the project to continue seeking other funding streams.”

The high-speed rail system has been in the works since 1996, when the state government created the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) to develop a plan. In 2008, CHSRA estimated that a high-speed rail system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles would cost about $34 billion. The California State Legislature approved a bond measure, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed, to appear on the ballot in 2008. Voters approved the ballot measure.

Known as Proposition 1A, the bond measure authorized $9.00 billion in general obligation bonds for the planning and construction of a high-speed rail system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. The ballot measure also authorized an additional $950 million for commuter rail systems that provide connections to the high-speed rail’s stations. Proposition 1A said the high-speed train would need to move at a speed of at least 200 mph and transport passengers between San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 ? hours.

Since 2008, the CHSRA’s annual or biennial cost estimates for the project have ranged from $34 billion to $99 billion. In 2018, CHSRA estimated the project to cost $77 billion.

While Gov. Newsom is planning to focus on a specific segment of the high-speed rail plan, Carl DeMaio (R), chairman of Reform California, proposed a ballot initiative to terminate funding for the project. Reform California organized the campaign behind Proposition 6 (2018), which would have overturned the fuel tax and vehicle fee increases enacted in 2017.