Once again, opponents of California’s plans for a modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly high-speed rail system seem to think they can get away with criticisms of the project that have no basis in fact. Tom Del Beccaro’s recent opinion piece is just that, opinion. And while we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts. Allow me to set the record straight.
First, contrary to his delusory claims, we do have funds for a useable high-speed rail segment in the Central Valley – a project that substantially improves already popular existing rail service while building the spine of a new rail network. That project, which has commenced, will create thousands of near- and long-term jobs. Meanwhile, we’ve executed funding agreements with local rail agencies in Los Angeles and on the San Francisco Peninsula to upgrade existing rail infrastructure for future high-speed rail use, moves that deliver immediate benefits to conmmuters and cut billions off the project’s total cost.
Mr. Del Beccaro also mischaracterizes recent judicial rulings, their import, and our successful quest to have those decisions reviewed. For these purposes here, let’s just point out that the judge did not stop the project, nor rescind the construction contract we signed.
He goes on to declare that we can’t meet the travel time and speed requirements mandated by the ballot proposition. Funny, I must have missed his detailed engineering analysis that provided the basis for that claim. Of course there is none, especially since not only our engineers, but independent peer review groups have validated that we are building a project that complies with the statutory requirements of the bond act.
Mr. Del Beccaro caps his diatribe by boldly declaring that Californians no longer want high-speed rail. In fact, the populace is mostly split and has pretty much remained that way. While support has dropped below 50% in some polls, a closer look at a March 2013 poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 67% of Californians still believe the high-speed rail system is important for the future quality of life and economic vitality of California.
The fact of the matter is that high-speed rail is sound public policy for dealing with California’s growing population and overcrowded transportation systems. Californians recognized this by approving the project in 2008 and have continued to show an eagerness for rail travel as evidenced by recent trends. The California High-Speed Rail Authority takes its responsibility to taxpayers very seriously. Notwithstanding the constant, politically motivated attacks like those of Mr. Del Beccaro, we are moving forward with a modern, efficient rail transportation system to benefit generations to come.
Mr. Richard is Chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.