Trump administration pulls $1 billion from California high-speed rail project

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SACRAMENTO — The Trump administration cancelled nearly $1 billion Thursday in federal money for California's high-speed rail project, further throwing into question the future of the ambitious plan to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The administration said it might also try to force California to return $2.5 billion that has already been spent.

The move by the Federal Railroad Administration came several months after President Donald Trump and Gov. Gavin Newsom sniped at each other over the project.

Trump made the rail line an issue when he seized on Newsom's remarks in February that the project as planned would cost too much and take too long.

Newsom has shifted the project's immediate focus to a 171-mile line in the state's Central Valley, but he said he's still committed to building the full line.

Still, federal officials said California has repeatedly failed to make "reasonable progress" and abandoned the original vision.

Newsom declared the action "illegal and a direct assault on California" and said the state would go to court to keep the money.

"This is California's money, appropriated by Congress, and we will vigorously defend it in court," the governor said in an emailed statement.

Voters initially approved about $10 billion in bond funds for the project in 2008. It has faced repeated cost overruns and delays since then. It's now projected to cost more than $77 billion and be finished by 2033.

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This story has been corrected to say the federal government may still try to take back an additional $2.5 billion, not that it will try to take back the money.

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