Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a former Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and author of legislation in the 1980s that laid the groundwork for high speed rail in California, today criticized Congressman Jeff Denham's (R-Turlock) work to sabotage transit priorities in Fairfield, Davis, Sacramento, Livermore, Tracy, Manteca, Stockton, and throughout the Tri-Valley and Bay Area. Denham's amendment passed by a 239-185 vote, with 235 Republicans in favor and 183 Democrats in opposition.
Congressman Denham's amendment to the Surface Transportation Authorization Act removes all new federal funding from going toward high speed rail, which imperils the Altamont Commuter Express's (ACE) ambitions to construct a multi-purpose high speed rail/commuter/freight transit corridor that could be completed years before the statewide California High Speed Rail plan. The Central Valley, despite having the largest population growth in the state, has traditionally lagged behind in receiving transit dollars from state and federal coffers.
The Capitol Corridor, the fourth busiest Amtrak route in the country servicing diverse communities from San Jose to Auburn, including the Suisun/Fairfield station in Garamendi's district, could also be adversely harmed by Denham's amendment. The Capitol Corridor has received millions in federal high speed rail funds and would serve as an important access point for thousands of commuters once California High Speed Rail is completed.
"I've always seen transit as an interconnected statewide priority. We should be working together to develop transit solutions helping all California communities," Congressman Garamendi said. "At a minimum, we should have the transit needs of the communities we represent in mind. I don't understand why Congressman Jeff Denham is leading the fight to imperil transit priorities in his district and mine."
Garamendi continued, "Investments in transit are investments in good local jobs. Congressman Denham just gave a pink slip to hundreds of workers in Livermore, Tracy, Manteca, Stockton, and neighboring communities."
The California High Speed Rail Authority has identified the Altamont Rail Corridor as a critical element to regional transportation needs and wants to improve regional ACE service in the near term. The ultimate goal is joint use of the ACE rail system to accommodate intercity and commuter service and freight rail. Denham's amendment could delay this project for years or even kill it.
The most recent economic plan for California High Speed Rail calls for an integrated transit network "blending" the system with ACE in the Central Valley, Caltrain in the Bay Area, and Metrolink in Los Angeles. This new approach could help reduce costs in construction by a third.