By Cailey Rizzo
February 20, 2019

The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Tuesday that it would seek to cancel more than $900 million in federal grants originally approved to construct a high-speed railway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Ronald Batory of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) wrote a letter to California state officials, saying that the DOT was seeking to defund the California High-speed Rail project over failure “to make reasonable progress.”

Originally, the project was conceived to connect the Los Angeles basin with San Francisco’s Bay Area in two hours and 40 minutes. The plan was presented to and approved by voters in 2008. Construction began in 2015. But last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the project would be cut down to only 110 miles, citing cost overruns and construction delays.

Series of cranes sitting near the high speed rail section near Nort and 99. Fresno, CA.
Credit: NB Teddleton/Getty Images

Newsom’s new plan would only consist of 110 miles of track in the Central Valley, from Bakersfield to Merced. Construction of the rest of the track was postponed indefinitely.

In a tweet on Wednesday morning, President Trump wrote that the shortened project was, “a different deal and record cost overruns. Send the Federal Government back the Billions of Dollars WASTED!”

According to the letter from the FRA, the project’s failures include not meeting expected state funding contributions and not taking “appropriate corrective actions” to ensure the project’s on-time completion. In addition to cutting future funding, the DoT will attempt to take back more than $2.5 billion it has already granted the project.

On Twitter over the last week, President Trump has repeatedly lambasted the project.

In tweets seemingly unrelated to railway construction, the President complained that California “wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train.”

In a tweet on February 13, President Trump wrote that “They [California] owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a “green” disaster!

Newsom responded to the tweet with another tweet, writing, “This CA's money, allocated by Congress for this project. We're not giving it back."

At the moment, California is not under any legal obligation to return funds that have already been given.

Newsom said in a statement on Tuesday that the seizing of funds was a “clear political retribution by President Trump.” He went on to promise that the state “won’t sit idly by. This is California’s money, and we are going to fight for it.”

Newsom also said that the project wasn’t going to end completely and he would continue to seek government and private funding to complete the entire railway.