Using his seat on the House Appropriations Committee, Valadao on Thursday won approval by voice vote of an amendment that says the federal Surface Transportation Board cannot take action on initial construction phases until the board has given final approval to the entire project. The practical effect would be to stop initial construction for at least the foreseeable future, as a massive and necessary environmental impact study has not yet been completed for the project.
The federal board had previously ruled, in a 2-1 vote, that initial construction of the Bakersfield to Merced section of the project could proceed. The board's majority sided with the California high-speed rail planners in determining that exempting the initial construction project from prior approval requirements would "minimize the need for federal regulation and reduce regulatory barriers." That determination, though, did not amount to approval of the entire project.
"It is important that impacts of this project are considered in their entirety, and that due diligence reflects the entire project being pursued," Valadao declared in a statement.
Valadao's Surface Transportation Board amendment adds clout to another provision of the House transportation appropriations bill, which prohibits any funds from the bill from being used on the California project.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has already received some $3.5 billion in federal funds, and was not anticipating getting any more in fiscal 2014. The high-speed rail language was included in a bill that, overall, provides $15.3 billion for an assortment of federal transportation.
The fate of either provision, though, remains very much up in the air, as Congress is not necessarily on track to give final approval to appropriations bills this year.
PHOTO CREDIT: A view of the interior of a station in the proposed high speed rail network. Rendering by Newlands and Company Inc., 2008.