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High-Speed Rail: A Better Idea!

Maybe instead of clinging to an idea that just gets worse and worse, it would be prudent to 'think outside the box' for a change

Oct 05, 2011


Families Protecting The Valley Newsletter Tell Your Friends about Families Protecting The Valley
OCTOBER 5 2011


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High-Speed Rail: A Better Idea!

Maybe there's a better way to do high-speed rail. Maybe the federal money can still be salvaged. Maybe instead of clinging to an idea that just gets worse and worse, it would be prudent to 'think outside the box' for a change. There are two articles below: the second article is polling information that tells us over 62% of likely voters would vote against high-speed rail if given another chance. The first article is 'A More Realistic Option Than the Train to Nowhere' written by L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich that proposes an upgrade of Southern California Amtrak lines (where the population is, by the way) with a speed of 110mph from San Diego to Ventura to Lancaster to San Bernardino to L.A. This is a more affordable model that could get us up and running and ready to expand at a future date when the state is more financially able to move on. Instead of forcing this abomination into the San Joaquin Valley and adversely impacting our existing economic infrastructure, Supervisor Antonovich's idea should be given serious study by the Obama and Brown administrations.

For more analysis of the high-speed rail federal budget situation, please click on 'End of the Line' on the left side of the newsletter, and also click on 'Water Bond?' for the latest on the California Water Bond situation.


Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich

What do you think of a day that combines lunch on the beach in San Diego and a nighttime Lakers game at the Staples Center without getting into your car? What about a commute that combines both speed and relaxation, allowing you to travel farther faster, opening more opportunities for jobs, recreation, and housing? The federal and state governments, stuck on their current High Speed Rail plan, aren’t making it easy for Californians to move forward by simply upgrading the rail system already in place to allow travelers to move from the Antelope Valley to San Diego in two and half hours, Los Angeles to San Diego in 90 minutes, and San Bernardino to L.A. in 45 minutes.

This type of a realistic high-speed rail network is within our reach. All we need to do is add common sense and fiscal intelligence to the plan being pushed by Sacramento and Washington, DC.

The California High Speed Rail Authority’s (HSRA) recently released environmental report for the initial Merced to Bakersfield segment confirms the fears of many: costs inflated from the original $7.1 billion estimate to $10 billion and potentially $13.9 billion. This increase could result in California’s high speed rail network’s total cost escalating beyond an estimated $43 billion to $67 billion or more, essentially setting the entire project on the express route to failure.

With HSRA’s budget expanding beyond the state’s financial reach and Congress in a long-term mode of fiscal austerity, California cannot provide its original share of the $12 to $16 billion required by HSRA’s 2008 Financial Plan, much less cover these extra billions. As Californians grow more upset with ballooning costs as well as HSRA’s continued conflict with communities, voters are unlikely to add funding to the $10 billion in state bonds approved by 2008’s Proposition 1A. Billions of federal stimulus dollars allocated to high-speed rail must be obligated for expenditure by next year or returned. This budget failure could result in the death of California’s high-speed rail.

In an effort to keep federal funding and meet requirements of Proposition 1A’s language governing high speed rail, which demands 220-mile-per-hour tracks and a two hour and 40 minute travel time between San Francisco and Los Angeles, HSRA has focused on creating a Central Valley electric test track. But without first closing the gap between the San Joaquin Valley Rail System in Bakersfield and the Antelope Valley’s Metrolink , this test track will simply be a fast route to a dead end and waste of taxpayers’ nonrefundable investment.

Either way, the vision of voters who passed Proposition 1A won’t make it to the station.

But a high speed rail network can be built using less money, in less time, and with greater economic and employment benefits for the 60 percent of Californians who reside in the state’s southern counties.

Under federal stimulus guidelines, the Federal Rail Administration defines “high speed rail” as “intercity rail passenger service that is reasonably expected to reach speeds of at least 110 miles per hour.” It is possible to upgrade the extensive, existing Metrolink/Amtrak rail system - which already serves over a million riders each month and stretches from Lancaster to San Diego and Ventura County to San Bernardino – to a 110-mile-per-hour network instead of attempting to replace it with a less feasible, budget-breaking 220 mile-per-hour system.

Practical, pragmatic and fiscally prudent upgrades to our existing rail network, including track straightening, double tracking, grade separations, new run-through tracks at L.A.’s Station, upgraded locomotives, and positive train control must be given priority. These projects would cost considerably less than a Central Valley test track, provide immediate benefit to current riders and attract millions more. This proposal to upgrade systems and make use of already owned-right-of-ways would also protect communities facing the loss of homes, schools, businesses and farms under HSRA’s current designs demanded by Proposition A’s rigid speed and travel time requirements. Even more importantly, investing in upgrades would also immediately create thousands of jobs throughout Southern California.

I initiated this progressive motion, which the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Southern California Association of Governments, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and officials from across our region enthusiastically approved, recognizing it as a sensible, cost-effective and community-responsive alternative to crisis.

We must upgrade our Metrolink system, which already carries one million riders monthly. Doing so, we will connect all parts of Southern California to one other at speeds impossible to achieve today. But the state and federal government is blocking our way. It is critical to write to our President, Governor Brown, and state and federal representatives to ask that the federal stimulus bill and Proposition 1A be amended to allow Californians to use their money as they best can for this alternate but realistic approach to high speed rail.


Nearly two-thirds of California's likely voters would, if given the chance, stop the state's controversial high-speed rail project, according to a new Probolsky Research poll.
The head of the Irvine-based GOP polling outfit, Adam Probolsky, said that he included state budget priorities and the proposed bullet train, which would link the northern and southern regions of the state, as "fun questions" in a wider attitudinal poll of those likely to vote in next year's election.

The poll found that 62.4 percent of respondents would vote to stop the bullet train project and virtually the same number said they are unlikely ever to travel on the train between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Finally, the project came in dead last, at 11.2 percent, in a list of voters' spending priorities, with education ranking first, followed by public safety, health and welfare services, water and protecting the environment.

The full poll on high-speed rail is available here.

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