California High-Speed Rail
Posted by Roobs on June 1, 2010
In late January of this year, The White House announced that California would recieve $2.35 billion for for rail related projects. Specifically, $2.25 billion for high speed rail construction, wich included $400 million reserved for construction of the San Francisco Transbay Terminal Station, and $1 billion for Amtrak corridor improvements including things like, terminal and rail improvements for Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor line (San Jose – Oakland – Sacramento). Last week, the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, announced the first allotment of these funds, which included $6.2 million to begin improvements on the Capitol Corridor system.
I am a huge supporter of high speed rail in California, and all over the US for that matter. I have wanted to see a high speed rail in our state since i was a little kid and have been following the development of such a project for almost as long. I am not writing this particular post to go over the specific political and planning aspects of the project. I would rather address those in specific posts of their own. Instead, this is just how i feel about the project overall.
I remember absolutely HATING the fact that my mother, who refused to drive through Tehachapi, would make me and my sister join her in the 5 hour journey to San Bernardino to visit my grandparents (driving in a car vs. public transit is only 4 hours). The trip was a 1 hour Amtrak train ride from Hanford to Bakersfield, followed by a 4 hour bus ride from Bakersfield to San Bernardino. I get closterphobic just thinking about it. This same trip on the proposed CAHSR would take approximately 2 hours from Fresno to Ontario or Riverside stations. That is awesome.
Now, despite the start of money flowing into the Golden State’s HSR project, there are still significant obstacle to overcome, such as strong NIMBYism in Northern California’s Peninsula corridor. Also, the cost to complete the system is estimated at $42 billion. Yes this is a lot of money and yes, the total $2.25 billion isn’t a lot vis-a-vis $42 billion, but it definately jumps starts a project and allows the Authority to create a visible and tangible portion of the system to help convince others that HSR in California can really work.
That beings said, it is important to keep our eyes on the larger picture. This project represents the greatest public works project we have attempted in this state since we built our infamous freeways and aqueducts. And like those systems, it is a state-wide effort that will not be to the benefit of any one region but the the state as a whole. The project greatly recognizes that a strong and vibrant economy relies heavily on the moving of goods, services AND people between major urban areas. Keep in mind that $42 billion is less than 1/3 the cost to expand our highways to accomodate the same number of projected future travelers at $150 billion. If you’re interested in saving money, this figure should stand out a lot. Also, in this economic state that we are in, it would be remiss to ignore the creation of about 450,000 permanent and 500,000 temp jobs in the process that would greatly stimulate the economy in the short run.
In the long run, i cannot begin to go over the plethora of economic activity that could result from having high-speed rail. Housing near stations will shoot up with more units creating denser, more livable neighborhoods and cities. Our environment will improve as more people use clean rail to get from one part of the stat to the other instead of flying or driving. Home prices nearby will rebound from their current lows. All of these things will increase the tax base of cities improving local services and the quality of life for you, me and our families.
Truly, if there was one project to undertake that would benefit us more than anything at this moment in history, high-speed rail is that project.
I will also give a plug to the grassroots organization working to help bring high speed rail to California: Californian’s for High Speed Rail.
Also, please visit the California High Speed Rail Authority website.