House votes to halt support for California high speed rail (Updated)

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The House of Representatives voted Tuesday night on a provision to kill federal funding for California high speed rail. Just like last year, the GOP-led House will likely get overruled by the Democrat-ruled Senate and the White House.

The amendment — just as last year — is from Republican Congressman Jeff Denham, chairman of the House Transportation Committee's Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Committee. His measure would prevent the federal government from spending dollars included in the transportation bill set aside for California’s high speed rail project. 

Fellow Central Valley Republican David Valadao calls the $68 billion project a “disaster.” Valadao cites broken promises such as getting from L.A. to San Francisco in just over two-and-a-half hours on a train that would pay for itself. "What was sold to the voters compared to what’s being jammed down their throats today are two very different things," Valadao said.

In 2008, California voters approved $9 billion in bonds for a bullet train. The price tag for the project has jumped to $68 billion and has been plagued by delays, lawsuits and a complete management change. The first phase, which would take riders from Fresno to Bakersfield, has yet to break ground. California and the federal government have together committed $6 billion so far, with no private investment in hand.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx reiterated the administration’s commitment to California, pointing to Republican-majority states such as Florida and Texas that are trying to get their own high speed rail projects off the ground. "That’s emblematic of a recognition that high speed rail is here to stay," Foxx said. 

Last year, a similar House amendment restricting funding for California's bullet train was stripped away when the House and Senate bills were merged. Valadao acknowledges the new Denham amendment is likely to meet a similar fate. But he says at least negotiations with the Senate will temporarily slow down the project. 

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