High-Speed Rail Fight May Spill Over to 2020 Election

The fight between the Trump Administration and California over the state’s troubled high-speed rail project could become an issue in the 2020 elections.

There is a move being led by a conservative radio talk show host in San Diego to place a referendum on the 2020 ballot that would halt the high-speed rail project and transfer its funds to road repairs.

The Associated Press quoted public policy professor Sherry Bebitch Jeffe of the University of Southern California as saying that supporters of President Donald Trump see the issue as a way to generate turnout of Republican voters.

Observers note that the battle over the high-speed rail project is yet another front in an ongoing battle between Trump and California that has led the state to sue the Trump administration 46 times over policy change disagreements.

In the most recent battle, the Federal Railroad Administration demanded that the state return $9 million that it awarded during the Obama administration to help develop the Los Angeles-San Francisco high-speed route.

That came after California Gov. Gavin Newsom scaled the project back to development in the Central Valley, leading some to describe it as a train to nowhere.

In a statement, Newsom described the FRA’s demand for the grant money back as “clear political retribution by President Trump” that Newsom vowed to fight.

The administration and state are also at odds over other transportation-related issues, including Trump’s efforts to remove California’s right to set its own auto emissions standards.

The Trump administration has also sought to deny funding for a plan to electrify the tracks used by Caltrain commuter trains linking San Francisco and San Jose, which some in the state see is an effort to kill the high-speed rail project because its trains would have used that route.

However, the tensions over the high-speed rail plan predate the Trump administration.

Two GOP California congressmen sought during the Obama administration to deny federal funding for the high-speed rail project. Obama fought back against those efforts.

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