By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday it was in settlement talks with California to resolve a 2019 lawsuit filed by the state after the Trump administration rescinded a nearly $100 federal grant. $1 billion high-speed rail project dogged by major delays. .
The California lawsuit asserted that the US Department of Transportation lacked the legal authority to withhold the $929 million that the Obama administration allocated nearly a decade ago, but had lain untapped.
The Department of Justice and the California Attorney General’s office said in a joint filing that they had “engaged in initial settlement discussions and exchanged settlement correspondence” and asked that the case be put on hold pending talks. to solve the problem.
A spokeswoman for California’s high-speed rail authority confirmed the talks.
California says the train system will travel from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin at speeds capable of more than 200 miles per hour (322 km/h) by 2033 and eventually extend to the capital of the State, Sacramento and San Diego.
The Trump administration has agreed not to transfer the California grant to another project, pending resolution of the lawsuit. Republican President Donald Trump’s Federal Railroad Administration said California “has not made reasonable progress on the project.”
California argued that the cancellation stemmed from “Trump’s overt hostility to California.”
Trump ridiculed the project. In contrast, Democratic President Joe Biden is a strong supporter of high-speed rail and has pledged to ensure the United States “has the cleanest, safest, and fastest rail system in the world.”
California voters approved the initial $10 billion bond for the project in 2008, and $3.5 billion in federal funds were allocated two years later. California had previously received $2.5 billion from the prize.
By March 2018, the state’s projected total costs had jumped to $77 billion, with analysts warning the tally could ultimately top $98 billion.
California said in February it planned to initially build a single lane in the first 171 miles (275 km) Merced
to the Bakersfield segment to validate the system. He plans to build a second runway later.
The current cost estimate for the system ranges from $69 billion to $99.8 billion and is expected to be completed in the 2030s.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Peter Cooney)