Transportation leaders voice support for high-speed rail in CA

| January 26, 2011

More than 100 California public and private sector transportation leaders voiced strong support for implementing high-speed rail in California in a report released Jan. 25 from the Center for Urban Infrastructure at Brandman University.

The report said that in addition to the advantages of job creation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the top priority should be creating a more efficient mass transit system.

The leaders also said California is in a prime position to build a high-speed rail system that will attract riders and private capital from multiple sources.

“High-speed rail will usher in a new era for transportation and jobs in California,” Sarah L. Catz, co-author of “Thinking Ahead, High-Speed Rail in Southern California” and director for the Center for Urban Infrastructure, said in a written press statement announcing the report. “High-speed rail will boost the United States investment in transportation infrastructure, where currently, the United States is far behind its global competitors.”

The report examined the views of public officials, private sector developers, transportation planners and investment backers who attended a conference sponsored by the Center for Urban Infrastructure in late August. A follow-up survey of these officials and other transportation leaders is included in the report.

Among the results, the survey showed 89 percent of the transportation experts give widespread support for high-speed rail.

More than half of the respondents believe that private investment, including foreign investment, is seen as an important part of the high-speed rail system’s success.

The survey shows that transit connectivity is an extremely important component to a successful high-speed rail system.

The transportation leaders also said there is strong support for additional public/private partnership legislation.

In December 2010, the California High-Speed Rail Authority decided to begin construction of the Anaheim-to-San Francisco system on a 120-mile stretch of track in the Central Valley – between Fresno and Bakersfield.

Nearly $5.5 billion is available to California today to begin construction on the statewide system. Preparations will continue on the rest of the system to connect this first segment of new infrastructure to major population centers in California.

“More than 80,000 jobs will be created in the Central Valley over the next five years,” Curt Pringle, chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said in a written statement. “Companies from throughout California and investors from around the world are looking at California high-speed rail as a valuable investment and economic development opportunity. Our great state has only two options – move forward to invigorate and strengthen our economy or be left behind in a gridlock of freeway congestion and high unemployment rates.”

Two years ago when its economy was sinking, China realized that one of the fastest ways to revitalize the economy was to invest in infrastructure. What followed more than 24 months was a massive investment.

France’s rail network, which includes the high-speed TGV, has generated about 1.1 billion euros in profit since 2007. Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands have built their own successful high-speed networks.

“The entire industrial world is committed to building and expanding high-speed rail,” said Tom Downs, chairman of Veolia Transportation North America Board of Directors, the world’s largest private sector rail company. “The reason for such enthusiasm for high-speed rail is that high-speed rail is simply good business. California would be the first real high-speed rail system in North America.”

For the complete report, “Thinking Ahead, High-Speed Rail in Southern California,” and survey results, go to www.c-u-i.org.

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