The California High Speed Rail Authority received another setback when the federal Surface Transportation Board rejected the Authority’s request to approve 114 miles of new track between Fresno and Bakersfield. The Authority requested the approval because its contract with the consortium headed by Tutor Perini included work to be performed on 5 of the 114 miles in the Fresno-Bakersfield segment. This comes on top of two court rulings that hamstring the project’s finances. Columnist George Skelton believes Governor Jerry Brown should be more upfront about where the money will come from, citing how Authority CEO Dan Richard was more candid about the situation when Skelton interviewed him.
Not surprisingly, HSR critics are interpreting this collection of news as some kind of death knell for the project, even though design and construction was allowed to move forward. Others expressed more demeaning opinions in light of the new challenges. However, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association believes that the real culprit is the lack of a meaningful federal partner that can provide funds and vision for this and other HSR projects. To that effect, the MHSRA organization is asking advocates to write to their Congressmembers, who are currently debating both the annual budget and the long-term authorization for railroads, and ask them to include more funds for railroad infrastructure in their plans.