On Monday, the New York Times published what amounts to a hit job on California High Speed Rail.
In it, the author ignores recent developments and rehashes decisions made 15 years ago to paint a very negative picture of the future.
The truth: High-speed rail is the foundation of an exciting plan to connect the entire state of California with high-frequency trains and buses. It is a great story to tell. It can be a model for the rest of the country, and you can help get the good word out.
Here are some key points that the article omitted:
A) Just this past June, the legislature appropriated $4.2 billion for high-speed rail and $7.65 billion for other rail and transit projects.
B) 119 miles of high-speed line are already under construction, and final design has started on another 52 miles.
C) The most valuable and most difficult segments – getting through the mountains to San Jose and Los Angeles – are environmentally cleared, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority is beginning pre-construction work on those segments too.
D) The State has funded the only integrated rail plan in the country, which gives them the ability to phase in the network the way interstate highways were phased in over decades.
An important value choice underlies the complaints in the Times piece:
A) Should high-speed rail totally focus on Los Angeles and San Francisco? If so, the routing along the interstate that connects these cities was the right way to go.
B) Should high-speed rail connect many cities, big and small, together? If so, the existing route does that..
I believe, very strongly, that state leaders made the right decision when they chose to connect many cities together.
Whatever you believe, the choice has been made and rehashing does no good. The focus needs to be on getting the project done. We want an American success story for high-speed rail, and this project can be one of the first.
The article also highlights difficulties with the chosen route, especially getting across the Pacheco Pass to San Jose and through the Tehachapi Mountains to Los Angeles County. The good news is that the initial designs are done and pre-construction work can begin. This will be a game-changer for the state, closing key gaps in the existing passenger-rail network. It will be a heavy lift, and the legislature will need to be fully committed to get it done. We saw signs of that commitment in the legislature’s appropriation over the summer.
California’s continued success can help build support for the well-funded federal rail program we so urgently need. It can happen, if local leaders throughout the state continue to push Sacramento to finish the project.
You can help too, to make this a reality. Tell your friends about the good news out of California, and the promise of fast, frequent, affordable trains throughout the country.
Thank you for your interest in high-speed rail.