The Little Engine That Should

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Aly Kruse

The plan to build a high-speed rail connecting 24 cities in California is still on the radar despite some calls for the project’s derailing. 

Opponents cite cost, location and environmental impact as major roadblocks.

But with California’s population expected to grow by some 12 million people over the next 25 years, this long-term railway proposal makes a lot of sense. 

When was the last time you drove through Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco during rush hour? 

How much more lane-widening can you do to existing freeways to even come close to accommodating that many more cars? 

You can’t.

Build more freeways? Good luck.

Talk to anyone who’s ridden the rails in Europe and nearly all of them will describe the experience in glowing terms. 

High-speed rail makes it possible to wake up to breakfast in Amsterdam, have lunch in London and arrive in Paris in time for dinner. 

Heck, I just want to get from San Diego to L.A. without growing a beard first. 

Two and a half years ago California voters approved a high-speed rail project that would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco by 2020 and eventually expand to Sacramento and San Diego.

But would Californians support the project again if it were put to a vote today?  Probably. 

Back then a barrel of oil went for $55. As of this writing it’s bouncing around $100. 

Just last year voters rejected an initiative to overturn California’s greenhouse gas emissions law.  That was a green light for this project.

A bullet train powered by electricity generated by wind and photovoltaic sources.

The High Speed Rail Authority estimates the entire project will cost about $43 billion.  The state’s Legislative Analysts Office, however, puts the price tag up around $67 billion.

But projects like this already have the full support of the Obama administration.

“Within 25 years our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high speed rail which could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car”, says President Obama. 

About $10 billion worth of federal high-speed rail funds has been committed to building bullet train lines throughout the nation. 

Even better for California is the fact that plans have been scrapped to build similar projects in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. 

That might leave additional government largesse on the table for the Golden State’s rail.

Even so, federal funds alone won’t do it.  Not even close. 

Fortunately California voters have already approved $9 billion in state funds. Only a small portion of those funds would be required to get the project started.

Then there’s private funding. In Europe and Asia, once construction began the private sector came knocking for their piece of the pie. 

Similarly, long-term plans call for private enterprise to eventually take over the operation and maintenance of California’s bullet train system.

In June the mayors of five large California cities released a statement in support of the project. 

They support beginning construction in the Central Valley and building out from there. It’s the same model the Eisenhower administration followed when building the California portion of our nation’s highway system.

Then there are jobs. An estimated 100,00 jobs would be created during each year of the construction phase (which is expected to last until at least 2025).  Add to that number 450,000 permanent jobs upon completion. 

It’s a future where thousands of people gain quality jobs in a trend-setting economic sector.  Thousands of people traveling at speeds up to 220 mph on a train that uses renewable energy sources for power, effectively taking thousands of automobiles off the freeways.  

It’s a future Californians should get on board with today.

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