MANY HAVE QUESTIONED THE HIGH SPEED TRAIN PROJECT IN CALIFORNIA
A project that many in Central California have banked on for financial recovery from a recession that is going into its fifth year, is at risk.
California’s high speed rail project has been criticized by many people. Some have called it financially unfeasible. Outside panels have called for termination of the project.
They have cited the high cost and current budget woes as the reason to pull the plug on the ambitious project that is intended to link Southern California with Northern California. Along the route, Fresno and Bakersfield will be linked with the major metropolitan centers of California.
By 2025 California is forecasted to have 48 million residents. Easily exceeding the bottom 15 states of the United States in terms of population, combined. Currently California has at least 12 million more residents than the number two state in the union, Texas. It is expected that California will add 11 million more residents by 2025.
Despite the massive population of California, the eastern seaboard has seen the most investment in trains. On the east coast, Amtrak operates routes that run several times per hour. On the West Coast Amtrak’s trains run a few times a day or once a day, with fewer cities and stops along the way.
There has long been controversy over the disparity of Amtrak coverage. The eastern seaboard routes include more stops and more frequent trains. Suitable for commuters while the mid-west and the west coast receive coverage more suitable for people traveling long distances. Amtrak has long been subsidized by United States taxes,
California High Speed Rail
The plan for California high speed rail is to link Los Angeles with the Bay Area and Sacramento. Along the way, Bakersfield and Fresno would be on the backbone of the route.
In fact the current plan calls for construction to begin on the Fresno to Bakersfield portion of the route. The San Joaquin Valley has high hopes for California’s high speed rail. The construction jobs and subsequent maintenance jobs may turn around the economy of this historically depressed portion of the state. With unemployment rates in double digits, it is not uncommon for Fresno to have 14% unemployment, a multi-billion dollar project like California High Speed rail is a potential dream come true.
The relatively high paying construction jobs will be followed by the high paying maintenance jobs based out of Fresno if the project locates it’s maintenance facilities near Fresno.
Environmental Impact of California High Speed Rail
Another promise of high speed rail is improved sustainability and a lower environmental impact for California’s agriculture industry. It has been reported that for each high speed rail track running north and south, six lanes of freeway would be needed to accommodate the vehicle traffic. Therefore two high speed tracks in both directions would eliminate the need for 24 lanes of freeway.
A freeway that spans twenty four lanes is no small project. The amount of land it would consume is nothing to ignore either. Particularly when you consider that the land being consumed is some of the most productive farmland in the world. However it that farmland that some farmers said they are fighting for when they oppose the current planned route of the high speed rail project.
Many farmers have said that any route that connects Bakersfield and Fresno will take up too much farmland when the project can run along the valley’s western edge where farming is minimal or nonexistent. The alternate route would run along California’s I-5 interstate highway which utilizes a more direct route from Southern California to the Bay Area.
The problem with the shorter route is that it would eliminate Fresno from the system. With more than two million people in and around the Central San Joaquin Valley, there will be a massive portion of the state that is not served by high speed rail. Another problem with using the I-5 corridor is the approach to San Francisco.
The shorter approach to San Francisco, which is the current plan, utilizes elevated tracks running up the Southern San Francisco peninsula. Environmental groups and activists have argued that this will bring blight and urban sprawl to the area. The alternative is to use an approach that comes from the east, through Livermore and Dublin. This approach would pass through more densely populated neighborhoods and provide access to high speed rail to more people.
A National Vision
The plan for the United State’s high speed rail is to connect the East coast with the West coast using four east to west coast routes. One southern route, two central routes and one northern route. As the picture above shows all of the major metropolitan areas will eventually be connected.
While it is true that long term funding is at risk, it is very short sighted to terminate a program that will impact the future of the United States and California in particular. You have to ask the question, what if the United States had chosen to save money in the fifties and never built the interstate highway system?
High-Speed rail is a visionary project that all Americans should support. Republican’s concerned with business opportunities should support the project because of the potential commercial benefits of higher mobility and mobile labor forces that could travel from rural areas to urban areas and provide cheap labor. Liberals should support the project because of the equality benefit of a mobile workforce, eliminating the manipulation of oppressed labor.
Public Support of High Speed Rail will ultimately determine it’s success
At the end of the day, public support of this vision will be the deciding factor. If the public embraces the project, the politicians will follow. If the public allows the politicians to grand stand and claim that they are looking after their constituents best interests, the the project is doomed to fail.
If you support United States future and the prosperity of future generations, then you should support California’s high speed rail projects.