It felt as if it was never going to happen. But California’s long-awaited bullet train project finally broke ground this month. The initial leg is to carry passengers from the Central Valley to Los Angeles County, with an ultimate goal of connecting the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Conservatives are still complaining that the project is too expensive. At $68 billion — and, government being government, you know there will be overruns — it certainly isn’t going to be cheap.
Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo offered the following remarks at the groundbreaking for the California High-Speed Rail project in Fresno, Calif., Jan. 6.
Good afternoon, everyone.
Governor Brown, Congressman Costa, Administrator McCarthy, Chairman Richards – everyone here today – I bring you greetings on behalf of President Obama and Secretary Foxx.
Today we make history – and this Administration could not have asked for a more resolute partner than Governor Jerry Brown. Thanks to his visionary leadership, California will set the standard for high-speed rail in America.
In February 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, providing $8 billion for intercity passenger rail projects, and then in 2010, Congress appropriated another $2 billion.
From this money, $3.4 billion was invested in California High-Speed Rail and became the catalyst for the historic groundbreaking we celebrate today. However, the investment alone wasn’t enough, we’re here today because Governor Brown’s leadership transformed a vision into reality.
When you look at historic transportation projects like the Golden Gate Bridge or the Panama Canal, the naysayers are all long forgotten. It pays to be on the right side of history, because we remember the courageous leaders with the fortitude to weather the storms and prepare for the future.
By 2050, 100 million more Americans will call our country home and we must have an efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally responsible way to move them.
Rail is the mode of opportunity and its benefits cannot be ignored. Two railroad tracks can carry as many travelers in an hour as 16 lanes of freeway…in a fraction of the space.
The California High Speed Train will not only serve the State of California, but ultimately will serve as the backbone to a southwest regional high-speed network and a model for High Speed Rail development nationwide.
It will reduce congestion, improve air quality and promote economic development. And right now it is bringing good paying jobs to California.
Throughout California and across America, record ridership growth show that Americans are re- discovering rail and choosing it as their preferred mode of travel. California will set an example for the Nation with America’s first high-speed train.
I’m proud to be a part of history today. Governor, thank you for your commitment to this historic project and, most importantly, your leadership.
California on Tuesday will break ground in Fresno on its ambitious but controversial high-speed rail project, marking another milestone for Governor Jerry Brown and for foreign manufacturers waiting to bid on lucrative train contracts.
The United States lags behind Europe and Asia in building both high-speed rail and its trains. The 800-mile (1,287-km)high-speed rail is expected to be the legacy project for Brown, whose unprecedented fourth inauguration will take place the day before the groundbreaking on Monday.
Eighteen years have passed since the establishment of the California High Speed Rail (CHSR) Authority. Over the course of those eighteen years, high speed rail in the state has been discussed and planned and delayed and delayed more.
There have been proposals, referendums, debates, studies and budgets, but no tracks laid, no passengers queued, no trains roaring between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the promised three hour travel time at speeds exceeding 200 mph.
I began looking into the state of American high speed rail in pursuit of a few simple answers. Why don’t we have the sort of rail infrastructure seen across Europe, in Japan and now in China? What do proponents and opponents say about the various projects underway today? Put simply, what are the pros and cons of funding and maintaining high speed rail lines in this country, and what do our legislators make of them?
LOS ANGELES — Gov. Jerry Brown of California is riding into an election year on a wave of popularity and an upturn in the state’s fortunes. But a project that has become a personal crusade for him over the past two years — a 520-mile high-speed train line from Los Angeles to San Francisco — is in trouble, reeling from a court ruling that undermined its financing, and from slipping public support and opponents’ rising calls to shut it down.
Mr. Brown and his advisers have strongly affirmed their support for the planned $68 billion rail line, the most ambitious government project attempted in California since the eastern section of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco was completed last year. They urged the public to weather the setbacks that are almost inevitable for projects of this scope.
SACRAMENTO – The California High-Speed Rail Authority won approval Thursday from a federal railroad oversight board to start construction this summer on the first leg of what would be the nation’s first bullet train.
In a 67-page decision issued June 13, the Surface Transportation Board ruled 2-1 that the state could begin work on the first 65 miles of the project from Merced to Fresno, as long as it maintains the current route and follows through on promises to mitigate damage to the environment caused by construction.
(The Associated Press article above reports that the STD ruled 2-1 that the state could begin the project. While Vice Chairperson Ann D. Begeman dissented, in part, with the decision, she did not vote against it. The STB’s decision reads, in part:
It is ordered:
1. Under 49 U.S.C. § 10502, the Board exempts the construction of the above-described 65-mile Merced-to-Fresno passenger line from the prior approval requirements of 49 U.S.C. § 10901, subject to the following conditions:
(a) The California High Speed Rail Authority may construct the Preferred Build Alternative, identified as the environmentally preferable alternative by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which consists of the Hybrid Alternative and the Downtown Merced and Downtown Fresno Mariposa Avenue station alternatives, subject to compliance with all the mitigation measures specified in the Mitigation Monitoring and Enforcement Plan imposed by FRA and provided as Appendix C to FRA’s Record of Decision, dated September 18, 2012.
(b) The California High-Speed Rail Authority shall comply with the Memorandum of Agreement developed through the Section 106 process of the National Historic Preservation Act.
2. The Authority’s reply to public comments is accepted for consideration.
3. CC-HSR’s supplemental comment and the late-filed comments of individuals are accepted for consideration.
4. Notice will be published in the Federal Register on June 19, 2013.
5. Petitions to reopen must be filed by July 3, 2013.
6. This decision shall be effective on June 28, 2013.
By the Board, Chairman Elliott, Vice Chairman Begeman, and Commissioner Mulvey.
Vice Chairman Begeman concurred in part and dissented in part with a separate expression. Commissioner Mulvey concurred with a separate expression.)