Officials with the California High-Speed Rail Authority expressed concern about a plan to pull $2 billion in stimulus funds but remain optomistic the train will be built.
The Authority plans to run trains on several miles of track through the San Gabriel Valley by 2035 and hopes to have a San Francisco to Los Angeles route in place by 2020.
But the ascendancy of Republicans in the House of Representatives who oppose the Obama Administration's signature transportation initiative could quickly derail federal funding.
"We're very aware that getting additional federal funding is an ongoing challenge," authority spokeswoman Rachel Wall said. "A lot of new politicians and new elected officials are taking office and what we're eager to do is continue sitting down with more of them, we take it as an invitation to continue dialogue."
Earlier this month Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, incoming head of the House Appropriations Committee introduced the American Recovery and Reinvestment Rescission Act. The proposal seeks to pull back $12 billion in unspent stimulus funds to close the nation's $1.3 trillion budget deficit. The end result could be a $2 billion charge back to the authority.
Several cities in the San Gabriel Valley are carefully watching the legislation.
While El Monte officials favor the high speed rail plan and see it as a boost to the city's economy and a way to justify its planned Transit Village, officials in Alhambra remain opposed because of fears homes will be ripped out and residents displaced near the right-of-way. Even so, most feel Lewis legislation is a non-starter.
Dan Bednarski, who runs www.alhambra123.org , a California High-Speed Rail watchdog group, doesn't think the bill will pass because it has to go through the Democrat-controlled Senate and potential veto by President Barack Obama. However it sets the tone for the future when the authority will seek more funding from the federal government, he said.
City officials said they are more concerned about the environmental and visual impacts high speed rail could have in Alhambra, than funding issues. The city is opposed to the rail going outside the freeway or on an elevated structure along the media on the 10 Freeway. Still the authority won't chose a route until 2013.
"We don't really have an opinion on federal funding as to whether it should or shouldn't fund the project," said Assistant to the City Manager Jessica Keating. "We're only going to be super concerned when it affects our residents, we closely follow high-speed rail looking to protect our residents' interests."
There is no estimated cost for a 170-mile Los Angeles to San Diego route through the San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
"Ultimately I don't think it will change whether or not the project will get built," Bednarski said. "Even if they don't get a penny from the federal government they're just going to borrow it ... especially with China, Japan, Germany and France falling over themselves to get access to the market."
These countries already have their own high-speed rails.
It's too early to tell whether the $10 to $12 billion the authority currently expects in private investments will come from other countries, Wall said.
"It may include international investors," Wall said, adding investors will need to see a domestic commitment before putting money into the project.
Ultimately, California wants high-speed rail, Wall said. The project was approved through Proposition 1A, which provided $9 billion for high-speed rail construction and another $950 million to improve transit components that would connect to the line.
Among the rail's benefits officials said it would relieve congestion and generate 600,000 construction-related jobs over the project's life.
"We share some of (Lewis') concerns and we're very aware," Wall said. "We want to work to make this project a reality in order to benefit the state."