Opinion: California must keep high-speed rail on track – GV Wire

Although I work in Chicago, I’ve spent the past few months focused on California, communicating with dozens of Assembly members and senators from across the state.

Why is a national nonprofit in Chicago so focused on your state? Because what is happening in California is a precursor to what is changing our nation. And right now, the future of high-speed rail in the United States will be determined by what California does in the next two weeks.

Rick Harnish,
Special for CalMatters

Merced-Bakersfield segment underway

I helped found the national non-profit association High Speed ​​Rail Alliance because of my belief in the bullet train for all of America. California is home to the country’s closest thing to a finished segment of high-speed line. The Merced to Bakersfield segment — as bumpy and bumpy a road as it has been to build — is well on its way. This 171-mile segment will be the backbone of the national rail network. It will support trains traveling at 220 mph – the first true high-speed line in the United States.

This will reduce travel times between Merced and Bakersfield 90 minutes away, and simultaneously reduce travel times between hundreds of other city pairs, as passengers will transfer to connecting buses and trains at each endpoint. These services will also be expanded, making travel throughout California faster and more convenient.

More than 50 structures have been built or are being built, and environmental clearance for connections in San Francisco and Los Angeles is nearing completion.

Using the budget surplus to accelerate the completion of the high-speed train

Accelerating the completion of the Merced-Bakersfield segment is the safest course to take. If lawmakers allocate the remaining bond funds, 53% of voters are mandated as a down payment for the high-speed train with Proposal 1A in 2008, California will have almost enough money to complete this first segment. This appropriation is in Gov. Govin Newsom’s Proposed transportation budget for 2021. But at the same time the Senate and Assembly have postponed action on this, and it may not be included in the final transportation budget, which could effectively kill California high-speed rail, as all construction in the Central Valley would come to a halt.

This ownership is just one of a host of transportation investments Newsom is proposing, in a package that will go a long way toward California’s visionary and necessary climate goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. He proposes spending more than $5 billion in budget surpluses on transportation, getting LA public transit ready for the 2028 Olympics, rebuilding roads and bridges, racing trucks and buses to zero emissions and to increase the frequency of public transport to better compete with cars. .

Chance to advance economy and infrastructure

This is a unique moment in the state. Scarcity is generally the norm for state budgets, but higher-than-expected tax revenues have positioned California to advance a fair economic recovery, in part by investing some of the state surplus in the public transport infrastructure that we sorely need.

If lawmakers pass this transformational transportation budget, California will be first in line to compete for federal infrastructure dollars.

Please be clear: this is not a chicken game.

Several lawmakers I’ve spoken with seem to think they don’t need to act until they see what the federal government decides to do. But there’s only one outcome if they don’t act now and pass the transportation budget: California will miss out on all the federal infrastructure dollars that fall.

Now is the time to embrace this whole package of transportation infrastructure — including the high-speed rail portion — so Californians can claim what is rightfully theirs — some of the federal money for visionary projects ready employed and nearing completion, with state funds secured for Match vs.

The bullet train has been a dream for quite a long time. It’s time for California to lead the nation by turning it into reality.

Cal Matters is a public interest journalism company committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters.

Jose P. Rogers