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President Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom got into a Twitter battle Wednesday night over the curtailment of the state’s massive high-speed rail project from Los Angeles to San Francisco that was more than a decade behind schedule and billions in the red.
In a tweet, Trump wrote: “California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars. They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!”
Newsom, a Democrat — who previously said there had been too little oversight and not enough transparency about constructing the high-speed train in the nation’s most populous state — shot back 40 minutes later.
The governor wrote: “Fake news. We’re building high-speed rail, connecting the Central Valley and beyond. This is CA’s money, allocated by Congress for this project. We’re not giving it back. The train is leaving the station — better get on board!
Newsom, delivering his first State of the State address Tuesday, said he’d shift his focus to completing just a 171-mile segment of the line already under construction in the state’s Central Valley. The project is key to the economic vitality of the state’s agricultural heartland, he said.
A high-speed rail line linking Los Angeles to San Francisco was the goal when voters approved a ballot measure in 2008. The roughly 520 mile line initially was estimated to cost $33 billion and was pegged for completion in 2020. Officials eventually hoped to connect the line to San Diego and Sacramento.
Subsequent estimates more than doubled the cost to $77 billion and pushed the timeline to 2033.
Newsom said the state risked having to return $3.5 billion in federal money if building stopped on the Central Valley leg or it didn’t complete environmental reviews. Rail leaders have long said they did not have enough state money to complete the line. Private investment has been tied to getting more government investment.
Newsom used the speech, as well, to take issue with Trump. He blasted the president’s views on immigration — Newsom called the border emergency “a manufactured crisis.”