High-Speed Rail

Feds Restore $929 Million in Funds for California's Billion-Dollar Bullet Train Boondoggle

A grant revoked under President Donald Trump will be returned.


California's wasteful high-speed rail project is getting a predictable boost under train-loving President Joe Biden. On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it was restoring $929 million in grants that had been revoked by the U.S. Department of Transportation under President Donald Trump.

Trump used the terrible state of the rail project—years behind schedule, billions over budget, and without a realistic plan for actually connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco—as a reason to shut the funding down. His feud with California political leadership certainly played a role in the decision, but the reality is that the entire train project has been an expensive disaster that has lined a bunch of contractors' and consultants' pockets.

California sued the Trump administration to try to get the money back. Yesterday's announcement is the result of a settlement agreement between California and the Biden administration to restore the grant.

This is bad news for taxpayers, but hardly unpredictable. The Biden administration is looking to spend trillions on infrastructure projects that include high-speed rail. Biden imagines citizens traversing the country on these expensive trains, even though they can already travel more efficiently on airplanes.

The $929 million is actually a drop in the bucket compared to the $75 billion Amtrak is begging for to expand its money-losing routes across the country. But at this point, California's bullet train is estimated to cost somewhere between $69–100 billion, and California voters only initially authorized a $10 billion bond for the program. Cap-and-trade auctions, in which companies purchase pollution credits, have not been bringing in nearly as much revenue for the project as had been hoped. California will likely be going to the feds, hat in hand, looking for even more grants to pay for the project to continue.

Below, Reason TV explains what supporters of high-speed rail should be learning from California's costly mess (which to be clear, is to not throw more money at it):