monopoly_money.jpgThe California High Speed Rail Authority today released its revised 2012 business plan for constructing a 520-mile high-speed rail system between major cities in Northern and Southern California.

The 212-page report contains significant changes from a draft plan that was released by the CHSRA in November 2011, including a total estimated cost that is $30 billion less, and plans for a “blended” approach to integrating high-speed trains with local transit in the Bay Area and the Los Angeles basin.

“Our revised plan makes high-speed rail better, faster and cheaper,” CHSRA Chairman Dan Richard said at a news conference in Fresno, where construction on one of the first legs of the rail system is set to start at the end of this year.

Richard, who formerly served on the BART board of directors for 12 years, said that the CHRSA considered input from elected officials and members of the public when revising the most recent version of high-speed rail’s business plan.

“The revised plan will enhance local rail service immediately and in the long term, cut total project costs by $30 billion,” he said.

The revised plan puts a new cost estimate of the total construction of the high-speed system to be completed by 2028 at $68.4 billion.

The plan also lays out priorities for early investments, including the electrification of Caltrain and preparing the San Francisco-San Jose transportation corridor to accommodate both high-speed rail trains and an electrically powered Caltrain in the future.

Once construction is under way, high-speed rail is projected to create as many as 20,000 full time jobs annually, according to the CHSRA.

Construction of the system’s “backbone”–a 300-mile stretch linking the Central Valley to the San Fernando Valley–is projected to take around 10 years.

Karen Hedlund, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, said today that California’s population is expected to grow by 20 million people in 20 years, and that a viable high-speed rail system will be a necessary alternative to the inevitable “rush hour gridlocks and crowded airports.”

“Double-decking our freeways and increasing our runways just won’t work,” Hedlund said.

“For the sake of future generations, California is moving forward,” she said.

The CHSRA will consider approving the revised plan at its next meeting, which is scheduled for April 12.

Chris Cooney, Bay City News

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