CALIFORNIA HIGH SPEED RAIL PROPOSES SAVING TAXPAYERS BILLIONS
BY STAS MARGARONIS, RBTUS
The California High Speed rail Authority believes its new plan to build a leaner $68 billion high speed rail system for California would save California$124 billion in freeway and airport expansion spending if the rail system were built today.
Karen Massie, Information Officer, California High-Speed Rail Authority told RBTUS that the nearly $56 billion savings in freeway and airport spending shows Governor Brown’s determination that “California must accommodate the transportation needs of up to 20 million more of us in the coming decades. “
She says the $124 billion in spending for the same freeway and airline capacity needs as California’s high speed rail system would require the following:
* 4,300 new lane-miles of highway,
* 115 additional gates atCaliforniaairports,
* Four new airport runways.
In addition, “Caltrans estimates that the cost of operating and maintaining the additional highway infrastructure would be $132.8 billion over the next 50 years. Such funding would have to be included in the state budget. Operations and maintenance for high-speed rail will be paid by the operator and funded through system revenues.”
CHSRA has been criticized for focusing initial construction in the Central Valley of California which is sparsely populated and will have negligible impact on the high unemployment rates for construction jobs in Southern and Northern California.
Massie defends the Central Valley decision citing California High-Speed Rail Chairman Dan Richard who told an interviewer:
“It is the only place where we can test the trains at their ultimate speeds of 220mph. We can’t do that by putting trains between San Francisco and San Jose or Los Angeles and Anaheim. So we need a place where we can show that these trains can operate safely at those speeds under the train control systems we’re putting in place. The other thing is the shared use of tracks like on the peninsula. That means that we already know the corridors and the rights of way that we would be using in areas like San Francisco to San Jose or Los Angeles to Anaheim. We don’t have any right of way at this point in the (Central) valley, and the value of acquiring that right of way is around $400 million.”
Officials in Southern California argue that the high speed rail project will have very little impact on the most populous part of the state for some time and that if Congress cuts off funding the Central Valleyconstruction may become a rail line to no where.
They argue that building the section linking the town of Palmdale in Northern Los AngelesCountytoBakersfield,Californiawould create an immediate commuter community in the Southern portion of the Central Valleylinked by high speed rail.
Massie argues that efforts are under way to bridge this gap:
“Closing the current rail gap between Bakersfield and Palmdale is a priority for the CHSRA. Based on factors including rider ship and revenue forecasts, capital and operating costs, public input, and potential for private-sector investment … This will close the gap between Bakersfield and Palmdale and connect the Central Valley to the Los Angeles Basin at San Fernando Valley, creating the first fully operational high-speed rail system. This will be coupled with investments in Northern California to provide near term benefits and lay the foundation for high-speed rail service to San Jose and San Francisco. Upgrades to the existing San Joaquin service (Central Valley) will provide further time savings. Cap and trade funds are available, as needed, upon appropriation, as a backstop against federal and local support.”
Finally, CHSRA is working with a number ofSouthern Californiaentities through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) process to provide connectivity between local transit and high speed rail:
“Agencies that have already approved the MOU include: Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG), and the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink). “