On high speed: Bullet train awaits its future

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress

The 220-mph train can take you from SF and LA—if voters approve it

The nearly 800-mile system of bullet trains that can whisk commuters between San Francisco and Los Angeles will still have to be decided by Californians on November 4 via Proposition 1A. This proposition will authorize the sale of $9.9 billion in state bonds to help pay and start the construction for a 465-mile high-speed rail line linking Anaheim, Los Angeles, Fresno and San Francisco.

Prop. 1A includes $9 billion for high-speed rail and $950 million for conventional commuter and intercity rail. For the main line between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the cost would be $32 billion, and an additional $10 billion would be needed to complete the network by adding extensions to San Diego, Sacramento and Riverside County.

This network would send the electrics zipping between Northern and Southern California in just about 2 ½ hours, according to the state High Speed Rail Authority in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. The cost would be about $55, one way.

The ups and downs

Although a number of transportation, environmental and business groups support Prop. 1A because the see the high-speed rail as a faster, greener, less costly and less-complicated way to travel up and down the state, taxpayer groups and the California Chamber of Commerce are against it.

Those who are opposed to the proposition say that the state’s poor economy and seemingly endless budget defi cits can discourage voters from agreeing to take on more debts. The total cost of repaying the bonds over 30 years would amount to $19.4 billion, requiring an annual repayment of $647 billion, according to the state legislative analyst. This, they say, is going to be a signifi cant drain on the state’s general fund.

However, supporters of the high-speed rail say that the system would reduce pollution and the number of people fl ying between the Bay Area and Southern California. With gas prices soaring and reducing greenhouse gases, the project might be able to convince voters to agree on Prop. 1A.

Taking the present to the future

The bullet train project has been on the drawing board for 14 years. In 1994, a commission was formed recommending the construction of a high-speed train system to link the state’s biggest cities.

In 1996, a passed legislation created the nine-member board California High-Speed Rail Authority to oversee the planning for the trains. The bond measure was approved by lawmakers in 2002, with a planned statewide vote in 2004 and later in 2006, but was postponed twice with the concern that California had other pressing infrastructure needs.

Resembling the letter “Y” with a long tail, the 800-mile system would have its initial line start in San Francisco, along the Caltrain right-of-way, with stops in Millbrae, Palo Alto, San Jose and Gilroy. It would travel across the Pacheco Pass to the San Joaquin Valley, with stops in Fresno and Bakersfi eld. The train then would continue to head to Palmdale, with stops in Sylmar and Burbank before reaching Los Angeles and possibly Anaheim and San Diego. There are plans for extensions to Irvine, to San Diego through Riverside County and Sacramento.

A high-speed rail is defined as passenger rail running at a top speed of 125 mph (200 kilometers per hour) or higher. Commuters in countries in Asia and Europe have been depending on high-speed rail systems Japan’s Tokaida Shinkansen is the world’s fi rst high-speed train, which offi cially opened in 1964. (With reports from AP)


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