- A competition for limited federal dollars is afoot, as both of California’s high-speed rail projects will apply for a combined total of $6.55 billion when applications close Friday for the Federal Railroad Administration’s Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program for projects outside the Northeast Corridor.
- That total exceeds the nearly $4.6 billion available through this program for the 2022-2023 fiscal years.
- The California High-Speed Rail Authority will ask for $2.8 billion, while Brightline West seeks $3.75 billion in conjunction with the Nevada Department of Transportation.
To build new, from the ground up, dedicated high-speed rail lines in the U.S. come at a considerable cost. The Los Angeles-San Francisco route envisioned by the California High-Speed Rail Authority now has a price tag of $128 billion, while Brightline West anticipates spending $10 billion to construct a line from Las Vegas to Southern California along the Interstate 15 corridor, according to news reports.
In a document provided to Smart Cities Dive, the authority said it would use the requested funds to construct a second track along the initial 119-mile segment, obtain six high-speed train sets for testing and build the Fresno, California, station. The money will also help complete the final design and early work on two extensions planned beyond the initial segment.
The authority’s latest cost estimate to complete the initial segment is $18.3 billion at a 65% confidence level. It says it has identified $23.5 billion to $25.2 billion in federal and state funds through 2030, not including the new grant request. The authority also hopes to get $706 million in state cap-and-trade funds if the requested FRA grant comes through.
Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat from Nevada, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation in March expressing her “strong support” and asking for “full and fair consideration” of the Brightline West-Nevada DOT application.
In an opinion piece this month for CalMatters, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urged the Biden administration to provide requested funds for both rail projects, stating that “the President could be remembered for laying the foundations of a West Coast super-megaregion connected by state-of-the-art high-speed rail.”
The FRA has said it will provide a “streamlined process” for federal reviews of these grant applications.