Ahead of President Donald Trump's first visit to California this week, Gov. Jerry Brown solicited his support for the state's troubled high-speed rail project.
"You have lamented that 'we don't have one fast train' in our country. Well, Mr. President, in California we are trying to fix that," Brown wrote in a letter Monday. "We have a world-class train system under construction. We invite you to come aboard and truly 'Make America Great Again.'"
The San Francisco-to-Los Angeles bullet train, approved by voters in 2008, has become a legacy project for California's four-term governor, even as major financing and logistical problems have beset it. Construction for the train began in Fresno in 2015, but that first segment through the Central Valley is not yet fully funded. Meanwhile, the estimated cost of the entire route soared again to $77 billion in a new business plan released last Friday, and the completion date was pushed back another four years to 2033.
The project, however, provides a potential opportunity for cooperation between Democrat Brown and Republican Trump, who has publicly expressed his admiration for high-speed rail lines in other countries. California has otherwise clashed viciously with the federal government, particularly on immigration issues.
When U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions briefly visited Sacramento last week to tout a lawsuit against California over three new state laws to protect undocumented immigrants, Brown accused the Trump administration of "basically going to war" with California. During his first presidential visit to the state on Tuesday, Trump is expected to visit prototypes of the wall he is seeking to build along the border with Mexico, a plan that top California officials overwhelmingly oppose, before attending a fundraiser in Beverly Hills.
"After you've examined your wall prototypes on the border, I invite you to head north to the Central Valley -- the heart of California. Here in cities like Fresno and Madera, more than a dozen bridges and viaducts are being built for the nation's first and only high-speed rail line," Brown wrote. "We are already putting 1,700 Americans to work."
He said that California's "prosperity is not built on isolation. Quite the opposite. California thrives because we welcome immigrants and innovators from across the globe."
Brown noted that President Harry Truman used his first trip to California in 1945 to witness the signing of the charter establishing the United Nations in San Francisco, while President Lyndon Johnson met with the president of Mexico during his first presidential visit to California in 1964.
"You see, in California we are focusing on bridges, not walls. And that's more than just a figure of speech," Brown wrote.