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Feds delay decision on $650 million California rail grant

The Federal Transit Administration delayed a decision Friday on whether to approve a $650 million federal grant for electrification of a San Francisco Bay Area train system that would also help California's high-speed rail project.

Congressional Republicans had pushed the administration to reject the application from Caltrain. In a letter sent Friday, the same day a decision was due, the agency said it was deferring a ruling so the project could be considered as part of President Donald Trump's budget. No timeline was given in the letter, and spokeswoman Angela Gates said the project would be reviewed along with the president's other fiscal 2018 budget considerations.

Members of California's GOP delegation had asked the Transportation Department to block approval of the grant to electrify a Caltrain line between San Jose and San Francisco until an audit of the bullet train's finances is completed. They said that providing additional funding to help the $64 billion high-speed rail project would be an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars.

Future high-speed bullet trains would need electrified rails. High-speed rail's current business plan calls for the two systems to share lines along the Peninsula Corridor in the Bay Area.

Trump has spoken favorably of high-speed rail and last week lamented that the United States is behind many other countries that have bullet trains. California Gov. Jerry Brown, the Democratic champion of California's bullet train plan, responded with a tweet to the president saying, "California's ready."

Caltrain had hoped to have the electrification funding approved by March to begin contract bidding. Spokesman Seamus Murphy did not immediately respond to a phone message Friday from The Associated Press.

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