Moving Ahead with High Speed Rail

Subtitle: 

Why the common sense approach of the Revised Business Plan deserves support

Author: 

Stuart Cohen

Year Published: 

2012


Read the full report
Read the four-page report summary

High Speed Rail is an Unprecedented Opportunity for California

Building high speed rail is considerably cheaper than the alternative – widening highways and expanding airports – and without the same disastrous environmental and health consequences. High-speed rail can reinforce cities as the hubs of our economies, relieve congested roads, and help California meet greenhouse gas reduction goals.  If done right it can serve as a backbone of an interconnected, thriving California.

The New Plan for High Speed Rail Strong and Improved in Key Ways

TransForm supported Proposition 1A in 2008.   Since that time though the California High Speed Rail Authority did little to earn our trust or confidence.  The Draft Business Plan released in 2011 received widespread, deserved criticism and indeed was not supported by TransForm. 

But the Authority has new leadership and their Revised Business Plan, released in April 2012, shows how they are listening to community voices and outlines a smarter, more incremental approach with much less risk.  This new plan scales back components of the project, reduces community impacts by narrowing the width of the corridor required in most urban areas, and brings the projected cost down to $68.4 billion.  

The project is now designed to serve as the backbone of a statewide rail network, rather than an isolated system.  It supports early upgrades to Caltrain and Metrolink as well as lines now used by Amtrak and ACE, allowing those systems go faster and attract more riders.  Millions of Californians will benefit from these first investments by 2018.  These upgrades will also serve to make those corridors more ready for full high-speed rail.  

This report explains why TransForm supports the broad vision outlined in the Revised Business Plan.  The report also outlines remaining areas of concern and key recommendations to safeguard taxpayers, communities and the environment.  

Since we only get the chance to make this project work right if we take the first step, TransForm urged legislative leaders to support appropriation of the $2.7 billion in Prop 1A bond funds.   These bonds will be repaid through truck-weight fees that must be used for transportation purposes, and are primarily spent on roads. 

Risk is inherent in any major endeavor, however the new Revised Business Plan provides a lower-risk, common sense approach.  Losing the federal funds would have stopped this project for a generation or more and forced us to rely on congested roads and airports.  There are plenty of places to hit the brakes in the future if the project or the Authority go in the wrong direction, but now is the time to get moving on high speed rail. 

Read the complete paper for detailed explanations of TransForm's analysis and recommendations for moving ahead with high-speed rail in California.  Read a 4-page summary document of the paper.

California has an opportunity to revolutionize its transportation system through high speed rail, but planning has been fraught with problems. TransForm's report analyzes the April 2012 Revised Business Plan for high speed rail, urges California to move ahead with the first construction segment and provides key recommendations to make sure we do it right. The consequences of not building high speed rail are real: Californians may ultimately spend significantly more money than high speed rail will cost in order to widen highways and expand airports – with negative environmental and health impacts.