With California's population expected to reach 50 million in two decades, the state is looking into alternative ways to transport people from San Francisco to San Diego, and within metro areas in between.
An electric bullet train system similar to those in Europe and Japan could travel at 220 mph, allowing passengers to reach Los Angeles from San Francisco in just 2.5 hours. Backers say the $40-billion project could move some 100 million passengers per year by 2030 through a 700-mile system, relieving gridlock and saving the costs of building more freeways and airport connections.
"If we don't do high-speed rail, we will have to add 3,000 miles of highway and five airport runways in the state," says Assembly-member Cathleen Galgiani, Stockton. But those construction costs could reach over $80 billion, according to high-speed rail proponents.
The High-Speed Rail Authority's website, www.californiahighspeedtrains.com, lists the completed high-speed trains benefits:
- Create 160,000 construction jobs and 450,000 permanent new jobs — American jobs that can't be outsourced.
- Take 92 million vehicle trips off of the road every year.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12 billion pounds per year.
- Reduce our dependence on foreign oil by up to 12.7 million barrels per year.
- Increase commerce and tourism throughout the state.
- Take travelers from the Bay Area to Southern California in 2-plus hours, with stops in every major city on the way.
- Set the standard for fast, safe and efficient transportation in the 21st century.
On August 26, the governor signed off on allowing Proposition 1A on the upcoming ballot so voters could allow a $9.95-billion bond for the first phase of the project. Matching Federal funds and private investment would eventually meet the entire cost of the high-speed rail project.
Opponents of the proposed system are skeptical whether the estimated construction costs are realistic, that it could be finished on schedule, or that actual travel would be as cost-effective as proposed.