When the decidedly anti-rail Congress eliminated future funding for high-speed rail late last week, California's bullet train looked to be running out of track real fast. Although House Republicans were eagerly taking credit for killing Obama's "misguided" national high-speed rail network, there's still plenty of hope for California's HSR project.
On a more local level, the withering federal funds caused some fiscal handwringing over the new Transbay Terminal. As the Chronicle's Matier & Ross fretted yesterday, if High-Speed Rail disappears what will become of the HSR station in the terminal's lower level? Consistently conservative Superviser Sean Elsbernd seems sure the city will end up with, "a big basement under the most expensive bus station in the world" if the project doesn't find funding soon.
But the reports of the project being completely dead are exaggerated, according to the HSR Authority. As the Examiner reported over the weekend, California's slice of the $100 million in Federal Funding the House killed last week was "a token amount" compared to the overall $98.5 billion dollar budget for the LA - SF project. Congress won't be taking away the much more significant $3.3 billion in funds they have already promised to the project. Between now and 2015, the HSR Authority has already counted on getting exactly zero dollars in federal funding.
Meanwhile, those pre-committed dollars are still enough to get the test section up and running in the Central Valley and the Environmental Impact Report is already underway — two promising steps on the road to car-free, flightless travel to Los Angeles.