SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom used his first State of the State address Tuesday to drop twin bombshells: He wants to dramatically downsize the $77 billion high-speed rail project and his predecessor’s dream of a gigantic pair of tunnels delivering water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Addressing the Legislature and state officers for the first time, Newsom used the 43-minute speech to say his fledgling administration is prepared to make “tough calls” on the beleaguered projects, two of the largest public works efforts ever undertaken by the Golden State.
“The tough calls we must make together on rail, water, and energy. How we protect migrants, care for seniors, and help the homeless, and how we will tackle the affordability crisis that is coming to define life in this state,” Newsom said.
Speaking from planned remarks, Newsom said the troubled – and voter-approved – high-speed rail project can’t continue as planned. The project, which over the last two decades has been plagued by cost overruns, lawsuits and other hiccups, is supposed to go from San Diego to Sacramento and Los Angeles to San Francisco. Newsom said the project has been botched and suffered “too many years of neglect” from bureaucrats and decision-makers.
“But let’s be real. The project as currently planned would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency,” Newsom said.
As for the contentious California WaterFix – which has encountered many of the same hurdles as the high-speed rail project – Newsom has plans to slice former Gov. Jerry Brown’s project in half.
“I do not support the WaterFix as currently configured,” Newsom said of the estimated $17 billion water project to build two massive tunnels underneath the state’s most important estuary. “But we can build on the important work that’s already been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel.”
Newsom also used the occasion to blast President Donald Trump on immigration for the second time in as many days.
“This is our answer to the White House: No more division, no more xenophobia and no more nativism,” Newsom said.
This is a developing story.