approved $658 million to electrify commuter rail lines in Silicon Valley. That money will allow California’s long-delayed and wildy over-budget high-speed rail project to pass through the area.The Federal Transportation Administration has just
This approval came Monday even though the entire California GOP congressional delegation is opposed to the subsidy, and even though Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said just last week that we don’t have the money for it.
Baruch Friedman—a transportation analyst at the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website—suspects that the administration buckled because Sen. Diane Feinstien (D–Ca.) pledged to oppose all Department of Transportation nominees if the funds weren’t approved. “I think it was a decision that it just was not worth the political risk,” he says. “There’s no policy reason they would change.”
That isn’t the only dubious transit project getting a thumbs-up from Donald Trump’s team. Also in their good graces is the currently stalled Maryland Purple Line, which would add another 16 miles of track to the fire-prone D.C. light rail system. The plans call for a cool $2 billion in public funds, $900 million of which would come from the feds.
Congress has already appropriated $325 million for the Purple Line, and the Federal Transportation Administration indicated this week that it will follow through with a full funding agreement. That leaves just one more hurdle: all the federal court rulings saying the project can’t go forward until it conducts a more thorough study of the poor safety standards and ridership numbers of the light rail network that it plans to join.
As recently as March, the administration was promising to cut or phase out two major transportation grant programs. Now it’s approving controversial rail projects that it could easily veto.
Trump’s recently released 2018 budget blueprint leaves little room for this funding. The…