Trump Looks to Recover $1B Federal Grant for California Train Project

A migrant tries to bring down part of the border fence near El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana on Nov 25.  AFP  Getty Images

Jerry Brown listens during a visit to a neighborhood impacted by the wildfires in Paradise, Calif. California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the Trump administration is engaging in "political retribution" by trying to take back $3.5 billion granted for the state's high-speed rail project.

The transportation department's announcement came one day after California led a coalition of 16 states to sue the Trump administration over the president's decision to declare a national emergency for border wall funding.

The US president initially linked the border wall and California bullet train in a tweet earlier in the week, claiming the rail project was hundreds of times more expensive than "the desperately needed Wall!" Newsom, less than two months into his tenure, has appeared more eager to hit back at Trump than former California Gov.

The move by the Trump administration is just the next round in a long battle with the largely Democratic state over immigration and other issues.

This came after Trump declared a national emergency on the United States border after Congress refused to fund a proposed wall on the Mexican border and ordered money diverted from other projects to fund the barrier.

"California, the state that has wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train, with no hope of completion, seems in charge", Trump tweeted on Tuesday. Opponents of the ambitious project interpreted his comments as a declaration that "the train to nowhere has finally stopped" and that Newsom was canceling the leg of the plan that extended the railway from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

"California's high-speed rail fantasy quickly became a train to nowhere at taxpayer expense", Schatz said. According to Richard Batory, the administrator of the agency, California failed to make adequate progress or "effectively manage" the project.

He said the state would focus on completing a shorter segment in the state's Central Valley while seeking new funding sources for the longer route.

In addition, the Department announced it is exploring every legal option to obtain the $2.5 billion in federal funds FRA previously granted California for the now-defunct project.

The project has faced cost overruns and years of delays.

"There are 47 other cities across California that are not complying with their planning requirements in one way or another", Newsom said. "However, we do have the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield".

Newsom replied to the President in a tweet: "We're building high-speed rail", adding, "This is CA's money, allocated by Congress for this project".

The statement from the Department of Transportation heightens the Trump administration's quest to recoup federal money spent on the project that was originally granted in 2009.

If the federal government decides to take the money back, it doesn't have to wait for California to write a check.

But Newsom said the state intends to keep the money.

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