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Photo: California High-Speed Rail Authority via Getty Images

The most ambitious infrastructure project in America looks dead, at least for now, after its estimated costs had swelled to $77 billion.

Driving the news: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for dramatically dialing back the formidable high-speed rail project. In a speech today, he said "there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were.” The project will be confined to California’s Central Valley, running from Merced to Bakersfield, Newsom said.

The big picture: It is incredibly expensive to build infrastructure in the U.S., whether that's rail or highway or anything else.

Why it matters: High-speed rail infrastructure is important to climate change plans like the Green New Deal.

Axios' Ben Geman emails: It’s part of decarbonizing transport along with other mass transit options — such as electric buses, other kinds of trains, better pedestrian options and bikes — and EVs.

  • The Green New Deal resolution, according to the FAQ that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office released and then retracted, called for building out so much high-speed rail that air travel becomes unnecessary.

Between the lines: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Green New Deal resolution will get a vote (he thinks it will hurt Senate Democrats.)

  • Axios' Amy Harder emails: California just passed an incredibly aggressive clean energy law, so it’s not all bad from climate advocates’ perspective. 

The bottom line: If the richest and most progressive state in the U.S. can't follow through on an ambitious rail plan (similar to how Washington state couldn't pass a carbon tax), it signals nothing but trouble for people concerned about climate change.

P.S. "China plans 6,800 km of new rail track in 2019 amid infrastructure push." (Reuters)

Go deeper

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Jerome Powell. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Getty Images

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

2 hours ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).