High-Speed Rail Funding Dispute Holds Up Transportation Spending
A disagreement over the allocation of high-speed rail (HSR) funding is holding billions of transportation dollars hostage in Sacramento, including the Active Transportation Program, California’s only dedicated source of funding for critical biking and walking infrastructure. But don’t worry — a solution to the impasse has begun to take shape.
Governor Newsom and the legislature are engaged in a particularly Californian fight. The governor wants to put the available HSR funding into building the core section already under construction in the Central Valley. (In 2020, CalBike’s Central Valley Project drafted plans to help improve biking and walking access to planned HSR stations in Merced, Bakersfield, and Fresno.) Legislators want the funding to go toward electrification of and improvements to existing rail services at the terminuses in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
The resolution may come from the extra revenue in California’s coffers, thanks to higher than expected interest income. Legislators may be enticed to make a deal with the governor if the package includes funds to support popular projects in their districts. This could, in fact, work in favor of active transportation. Bike and pedestrian projects are very popular with constituents and the legislators know that, so the deal could include a significant additional investment in those projects.
The ATP provides $220 million in annual funding for active transportation projects across the state. The current budget already includes an additional $500 million in ATP funding. CalBike would love to see another funding boost on a similar scale, but nothing is certain at this point. Additional funds would be a welcome boost for the program, especially since at least $1 billion in good projects didn’t make the cut in the last ATP round because there was not enough money.
In addition to the extra ATP money, CalBike is pushing to increase the amount of funding allocated to build the connected bike networks and bike highways envisioned in AB 1147. This funding is separate from and in addition to the ATP monies.