California sues Trump administration to recover $1 billion high-speed rail grant

Lawsuit links decision to restrict state funding to Newsom’s criticism of Trump’s immigration plan

California is suing the Trump administration after the federal government canceled a nearly $1 billion funding contract for the state’s high-speed rail project. The state is arguing the federal government’s action was improper and politically motivated.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says his administration filed a lawsuit Tuesday morning challenging the decision in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The state also plans to file a request for a temporary restraining order, which will ask a judge to block the federal government from using the high-speed rail money for other purposes.

The Federal Railroad Administration announced Thursday it would end its $928 million contract with California because the state hadn’t kept up its end of the agreement and “has failed to make reasonable progress on the project.” It also said California “abandoned” its initial plan to build the high-speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Newsom insists he has not abandoned the ultimate goal to connect the two major cities, although he generated widespread confusion during his February State of the State speech when he announced there “simply isn’t a path” for that part of the project. Instead said he would focus in the short-term goal of connecting Central Valley cities Merced and Bakersfield.

“While this project has long been a political football, our determination to get the work done and bring high-speed rail to California is undaunted. This project is the right thing to do from a mobility, environmental and economic standpoint. It’s right for California and the nation,” High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Larry Mendonca said Tuesday at a board meeting.

In the temporary restraining order the Newsom administration plans to file, the state argues the Trump administration’s decision to claw back the money was spurred by a desire for political retribution.

“The real motive underlying FRA’s action was political: to punish California for opposing President Trump’s proposed border wall,” the state plans to argue. “There is no reasonable alternative explanation for FRA’s abrupt and unprecedented action or the manner in which it disregarded its own practice and established principles of fairness and due process.”

The lawsuit links Trump’s decision to restrict California rail funding to Newsom’s criticism of Trump’s immigration plan.

For instance, the lawsuit notes that Newson on February 18 criticized Trump’s effort to build more barriers at the Mexico border as a “manufactured crisis.” California also filed a lawsuit to block Trump’s plan to pay for the project with money that Congress had allocated for military projects.

The next day, the lawsuit notes, Trump on Twitter criticized California’s high-speed rail plan.

“As I predicted, 16 states, led mostly by Open Border Democrats and the Radical Left, have filed suit in, of course, the 9th Circuit! 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 write.

He added in another message on Twitter, “The failed Fast Train project in California, where the cost overruns are becoming world record setting, is hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall.”

-By Sophia Bollag, The Sacramento Bee

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