California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday he is pulling the plug on the state's massive high-speed rail project from Los Angeles to San Francisco that was more than a decade behind schedule and billions in the red.
"Let's be real," Newsom said in his first State of the State address. "The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There's been too little oversight and not enough transparency."
Newsom added that while California has "the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield," "there simply isn't a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A."
The embattled $77-billion bullet train has been an embarrassment for the Golden State and has been plagued by problems almost from the start.
The idea, long championed by Newsom's predecessor, Jerry Brown, is years behind schedule with the latest estimate for completion set for 2033.
Bullet train planners had been under increasing pressure to make progress on the system that many believe had no plausible way of living up to its goal of getting riders across the state in three hours or less.
California voters approved the pricey proposal in 2008. Backers – including several Democratic lawmakers – heralded it as an inventive concept that would connect Californians and transform transit policies down the road.
But critics claimed the bullet train project was a waste of time and money.
“This so-called bullet train is a solution in search of a problem that is plagued by billions of dollars in cost overruns and fiscal mismanagement,” San Diego Councilman Mark Kersey told Fox News in 2018, adding that the billions wasted on the project “could have been invested in our current infrastructure needs, such as water storage, flood control, highways and bridges.”
Some supporters over the years argued the project should continue because millions of dollars had already been spent.
Others said it was time to cut and run.
In late November, a state audit highlighted the flaws in the project, which began the pressure on then Gov.-elect Newsom to consider cutting back the construction of the train or make other major changes.
According to the audit, the state risked having to pay back as much as $3.5 billion in federal funds.
"This audit is so damning that it basically says there is no path to completion and has now triggered a federal audit," Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Republican from Fresno who pushed for the audit, said.