State Officials Predict High-Speed Rail Will Begin Operating by 2018

Photo: State officials say that the newly approved high-speed rail's
California High-Speed Rail Authority/Courtesy
State officials say that the newly approved high-speed rail's "backbone link" between San Francisco and Los Angeles could be operational by 2018.


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After voters passed Proposition 1A nearly two weeks ago, approving the creation of a statewide high-speed rail system, state officials say Californians could be traveling by train from San Francisco to Los Angeles as early as 2018.

The proposal, known as the "Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act," calls for nearly $10 billion in state bonds to finance the $45 billion project, which officials say will receive the rest of its funding from the federal government and the private sector.

After engineering plans and environmental certification are completed, the project's first phase, building a $33 billion high-speed rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles, is slated to begin in July 2010 and finish by 2018. The entire 800-mile network of trains operating up to 220 miles an hour is slated to be completed by 2030.

Under Proposition 1A, the $10 billion in state bonds cannot be spent until matching federal, private and local funding is also secured.

Under the plan, passenger revenues for the "backbone link" between San Francisco and Los Angeles are projected to generate annual surpluses of $1.1 billion to support the project.

The 432-mile train ride on the backbone link would cost $55 and take more than two and a half hours, according to the authority's estimates.

"It is feasible based not just on our own estimates but on the fact that in 10 other nations, high-speed rail systems operate with surplus revenue and no taxpayer subsidy," said Quentin Kopp, chairman of the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The second phase, which would connect Sacramento to the Bay Area and San Diego to Los Angeles, is expected to take five to seven years to finish after phase one's completion, he said.

In addition, officials predict that the project will create 160,000 construction-related jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs after its completion, he said.

However, critics of the plan contend that the proposal gives faulty estimates about ridership and cost.

According to Adam Summers, policy analyst for the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, the authority's projection that the railway will provide 117 million rides per year by 2035 is unrealistic. He pointed out that annual ridership of well-established high-speed railways such as the TGV in France is markedly lower, at 17.5 million.

Although some high-speed rail systems thrive internationally, Summers said it is unlikely the California railway will enjoy similar success because of its smaller market.

"For this high-speed rail system (to work), you would need it to go faster, cost less, be more profitable and carry more people than any other high-speed rail system in the world," he said.

Adib Kanafani, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, said he opposed Proposition 1A because it is poorly planned but that he is not against a high-speed rail system.

"We have always felt the need for a high-speed train, but it's going to be costly," he said. "If it proves to be efficient and environmentally friendly in terms of reducing pollution and emissions, then it is certainly worth doing."

Tags: PROPOSITION 1A, HIGH SPEED TRAIN


Contact Alex Gong at [email protected]



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