Gavin Newsom stated on Tuesday that there is "no way" to complete the state plan for a high-speed line between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but his office insisted that he fully dedicate himself to building such a project.
The governor of California, who delivered his first State of the State address, said he would shift his focus to completing only one part of the line that is already under construction in the Central Valley of the state. The project is the key to the economic vitality of the state's agricultural core area, he said.
A high-speed rail link linking Los Angeles to San Francisco was the target when voters approved a ballot paper in 2008. The approximately 520-mile line was initially estimated at 33 billion dollars and was linked to completion in 2020. Officials hoped to eventually connect the line to San Diego and Sacramento.
Subsequent estimates have more than doubled the costs to $ 77 billion and the timeline shifted to 2033.
"Let's be real," Newsom said. "The project, as planned, costs too much and takes too long … At the moment there is simply no way to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to LA, I wish there were. "
Newsom said he would continue with environmental assessments for the LA-San Francisco line and seek private investment to connect the Central Valley to the main nodes of the state, which would cause confusion as to whether he would his predecessor, Jerry Brown, was indeed changing.
The Newsom spokesperson, Nathan Click, said the governor is committed to rounding out the longer line with additional private and federal money, "as the Central Valley section demonstrates the viability of the broader project."
The questions about Newsom's rail plans obscured his first State of the State speech in which he set out his vision to lead the nation's most populous state. California, he says, stands for "difficult decisions that come up & # 39; on clean water, housing and homelessness.
Newsom used the speech to match his administration to Brown as well as he did to disagree with Donald Trump. He destroyed the president's views on immigration. Newsom called the border necessity "a fabricated crisis", but also complimented Trump's requests to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Trump has criticized California's high-speed train plan. Newsom said the state risked the risk of returning $ 3.5 billion in federal money if building stops on the Central Valley leg or not completing environmental assessments. Railway leaders have long said that they do not have enough money to complete the line. Private investments are linked to more government investments.
Newsom did not provide any new details on how he would use or collect his own money in a way that his predecessors could not have.
His speech allowed lawmakers with different interpretations of how the project would proceed.
Senator of the democratic state of Anna Caballero, representing part of the Central Valley, called the transition to a line only from Bakersfield to Merced "disappointing". But she said she hopes that this line will be connected to other state centers at some point.
"People have to see it move to really feel that it's important," she said.
The Republican Senator from the state, Jim Nielsen, said that Newsom's remarks were a confirmation that the entire train would never be completed.
"It can not be achieved, and the governor has essentially admitted it," he said. "This whole thing has now changed from whether a high-speed train will come to what will remain for central California."
Newsom rejected the idea that his plan is a train to nowhere & # 39; would create and said that building in the Central Valley would help revitalize the economically disadvantaged region. He also replaced Brown's head of state administration who oversees the project and promised more liability for contractors who exceed costs by providing information on how dollars are being spent online by rail.
Newsom also announced a new head of the water board, a new chairman of the state council of education and a new task force on housing and homelessness. It is typical for new administrators to redo the administration, even if the executive remains within the same party.
He announced the establishment of the new committee on homelessness and supportive housing to address something that he said is a moral issue that has become a public health crisis. His government recently sued the city of Huntington Beach in Orange and accused it of not complying with mandatory housing goals.
The governor has invited the leaders of 47 other non-compliant cities to a meeting next week for what he & # 39; a frank conversation & # 39; called.
"I do not intend to file a lawsuit against all 47, but I'm not going to lead neglect and denial," he said. "These cities must summon the political courage to build up their share of the housing market."
Newsom also promised to have a plan within 60 days for handling the recent bankruptcy petition by Pacific Gas & Electric Corp after years of devastating forest fires. He said he has convened a team of the nation's best bankruptcy lawyers and financial experts from the energy sector to work with his administration to develop a strategy to protect the state's electricity grid, natural burners, company employees and taxpayers.
"We are all frustrated and angry that the time has come," said Newsom. "PG & E has not done enough to secure dangerous equipment or plan for the future."
He also promised to address the pressures that climate change puts on utilities.