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Congressional Republicans demand information on Californias high-speed rail project

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(WASHINGTON) — Congressional Republicans are demanding information from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on what they call a “highly questionable” high-speed rail project in California, according to a letter first obtained by ABC News.

The ambitious plan aims to build a lengthy high-speed rail corridor that would ultimately connect Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and several cities in between. California voters first approved the initiative in a 2008 ballot measure.

But, the “California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) still has not completed a single segment of the system, the total estimated cost has ballooned to $128 billion and counting, and there is no expected completion date,” according to the letter from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, and Missouri Rep. Sam Graves, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority said work is underway on the first 171-mile stretch of railway from Merced to Bakersfield, and that the overall project has created more than 13,000 jobs statewide, according to a May press release.

But Cruz and Graves said the project has faced a series of delays and isn’t nearly close to fully funded, including an extra $2.5 billion still needed for the Merced section currently under construction and slated for completion between 2030 and 2033.

The lawmakers are now demanding the Department of Transportation brief both committees and provide documents on the status of project, particularly focusing on a recent federal grant of $3 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

“Despite evidence that continues to show that the California High Speed Rail project has critical issues indicating there is no reasonable path forward for successful completion of the project…the Biden administration continues to allocate substantial federal taxpayer dollars to this highly questionable endeavor,” their letter read.

In response to the letter, a Department of Transportation spokesperson told ABC News, “High-speed rail will revolutionize travel and expand economic opportunity here in America. We’re not only supporting projects that are underway, and, in the case of California, already employing thousands of people– we’re also building a pipeline of potential projects across the country that will take shape in the decades to come.”

The move by GOP lawmakers comes as President Joe Biden continues to tout infrastructure improvements and investments in things like high-speed rail from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law on the 2024 campaign trail as one of his signature achievements.

The law, signed by Biden in 2021, authorized $1.2 trillion for transportation and infrastructure spending with $550 billion dedicated for new programs. Both Cruz and Graves voted against the legislation, despite it providing billions of dollars in funding for their states.

“Politics are politics. This project has been a political football from the beginning,” Brian Kelly, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, told ABC News in a statement. “The fact is, where we are under active construction, creating jobs and investing into the local economy, the work of this project has turned opponents into supporters. As we continue to advance high-speed rail into other parts of the state we expect to see that continue.”

The authority said it continues to pursue funding to complete the entire first phase of its project, which will cover San Francisco to Los Angeles.

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