Four years after the voters of California approved a proposition to establish a high-speed rail system in the state, the California High Speed Rail Authority today approved a business plan that lays out a roadmap to build the 800-mile system by 2029.
Politicians, union representatives, young voters and transportation advocates crammed the Milton Marks Conference Center in San Francisco to speak publicly in support of the $68-billion project, which is projected to create thousands of jobs, and will ultimately transport passengers between Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and San Francisco’s future transit center in 2 hours and 40 minutes.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said the future Transbay Transit Center in the city’s South of Market District will be the “Grand Central Station of the West,” and said that integrating high-speed trains into the state’s transit goals is key for the economic future of California.
“High-speed rail will revolutionize how Californians travel, commute and move around the state,” Lee said. “We can no longer simply add more highways, infrastructure and airport runways to ease congestion.”
Lee also applauded the CHSRA for incorporating into its business plan early investments in local transit systems at high-speed rail’s “bookends” in the Los Angeles basin and the Bay Area, which chart a course for the electrification of Caltrain and the expansion of L.A.’s Metrolink.
“Caltrain electrification invests in a transit spine that connects the cities of San Jose and San Francisco to Silicon Valley and the Peninsula corridor and supports the continued health of a critical jobs engine in the Bay Area,” Lee said.
Along with unanimously approving its business plan, the CHSRA also approved an agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to match more than $700 million in funds for the Caltrain electrification project, and to prepare the Peninsula rail corridor for the eventual accommodation of high-speed trains on a blended track system.
“It’s the most important thing we can do for generations to come,” Lee said.
CHSRA board members acknowledged the difficulty of having arrived at today’s adoption of the business plan, which chairman Dan Richard called “a broad roadmap for our legislature.”
CHRSA vice chairwoman Lynn Schenk said the business plan was developed in “really tough circumstances,” which included the resignation in January of CEO Roelof van Ark, several lawsuits, and continued opposition in communities from the Peninsula to Bakersfield to Anaheim.
Richard, who served on the BART board of directors for 12 years, compared the fight for high-speed rail to getting the BART system started against major opposition in the 1960s.
BART’s opponents at the time called the called the proposed system “a billion-dollar boondoggle,” Richard said.
“What we’re going through with high-speed rail is not new,” Richard said.
“People will look back and say–I hope–‘Thank God they did it.'”
Construction on the initial operating section of the high-speed rail system–a 300-mile section that will link the Central Valley city of Fresno with the San Fernando Valley north of L.A. in as soon as 10 years–is scheduled to get under way this fall.
Chris Cooney, Bay City News