Rep. TJ Cox, D-Fresno, says California’s high-speed rail project is a major part of Congress’ greater infrastructure goals – provided it ultimately connects the Silicon and Central valleys.
The remarks came during a meeting Wednesday with The Fresno Bee’s editorial board. Cox was asked to give his take on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plans to scale back the project to an initial Bakersfield-to-Merced line and the subsequent response from President Donald Trump, who plans to rescind a $928 million federal grant for the project and threatened to go after an additional $2.5 billion in federal funding.
Cox said Trump’s actions were “retribution and political gamesmanship” in response to California’s latest lawsuit against his administration – this one opposing the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Newsom also referred to the president’s decisions as “retribution.”
Cox also criticized fellow Democrat Newsom’s handling of high-speed rail during last week’s State of the State address.
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“The governor muddled the message on high-speed rail,” Cox said. “Merced to Bakersfield doesn’t serve its purpose.”
Cox said the Bakersfield-to-Merced project would not cure the congestion of California’s highways. The congressman represents all of Kings County and parts of Fresno and Kern, including a portion of Bakersfield.
Still, Cox pledged his support and that of the largely California-led Congress for the project’s future.
“There’s a commitment in this Congress to meet this country’s infrastructure needs – not just for 50 years from now but 100 years from now,” Cox said. “And high-speed rail is an important component of that.”
Cox said he would support an infrastructure bill that would rescue high-speed rail. Newsom has asked for further private and federal investment to close the funding gap for an ultimate Valley to Valley rail line.
However, Cox added, the project’s ultimate success will require a well-defined plan, and “I think we can agree that it has not had that in the past.”
Rory Appleton: 559-441-6015, @RoryDoesPhonics