Gavin Newsom confirmed during his State of the State address on Tuesday that he plans to scale back the state's ambitious and controversial high-speed rail project for the time being. "Let's be real, the current project as planned would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. There's been too little oversight and not enough transparency", Newsom said during his first address.
"Importantly, [the governor] also reaffirmed our commitment to complete the environmental work statewide, to meet our "bookend" investments in the Bay Area and Los Angeles and to pursue additional federal and private funding for future project expansion", California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Brian Kelly said in a statement.
"I know that some critics will say this is a 'train to nowhere, ' but that's wrong and offensive". Newsom said the project has been botched and suffered "too many years of neglect" from bureaucrats and decision-makers.
In his address - which lasted almost 45 minutes, more than twice the length of the average State of the State speech by former governors Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger - he also signaled support for a single Delta tunnel.
The rail service was meant to decongest key airports and highways that have reached saturation points in the most populous and richest state in the nation. One of the goals was to create a high-speed rail system throughout the United States that would render air travel unnecessary.
For ten years, the project has been beset by ballooning costs, dozens of lawsuits, budget overruns, and scathing audit reports.
"I do not support the WaterFix as now configured", Newsom said of the estimated $17 billion water project to build two massive tunnels underneath the state's most important estuary.
"We're building high-speed rail, connecting the Central Valley and beyond", Newsom replied.
The state got $3.5 billion in federal funding to complete the Merced to Bakersfield line.
Projected costs for the full train project had grown from $33 billion to $77 billion, leading to Newsom's announcement Tuesday. Californians are just going to be left with a train in the middle of some of the more rural parts of the state because the Newsom administration doesn't want to have to repay the federal funding. Instead, the state should focus on a 160-mile route that will connect Merced to Bakersfield in the Central Valley. "Because last week, we heard another president stand up at the State of the Union and offer a vision of an America fundamentally at odds with California values".
Newsom criticized Republican President Donald Trump for promoting a "manufactured" crisis on the U.S. -Mexico border and for vandalizing pieces of former President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.
'He described a country where inequality didn't seem to be a problem, where climate change didn't exist, and where the greatest threat we face comes from families seeking asylum at the border, ' Newsom continued.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is preparing to deliver his first State of the State address a day after declaring he wouldn't participate in the Trump administration's "political theater" over border security.