Californians have the opportunity to do something truly visionary at the ballot box on Nov. 4.
Proposition 1A authorizes the state to sell $9.95 billion in bonds to fund planning and initial construction of a high speed passenger rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The measure allows the bond proceeds to supply only one-half of construction costs and requires the government to seek federal and private funds for the rest. Future bond measures would extend the network to Sacramento and San Diego.
This project, which has been in the works for over a decade, is exactly the kind of progressive undertaking state and federal governments should be spearheading. As California’s population continues to grow, its highways are becoming increasingly congested and its airports overcrowded. California’s transportation system is nearing capacity.
The plan presents a forward-thinking solution to the increasing squeeze put on California’s transportation infrastructure. Though it may seem like a daunting project, it’s not without precedent in California. In the 1950s and ’60s California invested a previously unheard of amount of money in public works projects, including approximately $10 billion in the highway system – largely paid for in bond measures such as this. For years after, California’s highway system was a model for the rest of the country and is historically considered a crucial factor in California’s prosperity.
High speed rail is the next step in that tradition. Gas prices will continue to rise in the coming years, further squeezing the budgets of California commuters. High housing costs surrounding cities are pushing more and more families to buy homes in “bedroom communities” an hour, sometimes two, away from work. A high speed rail line, interconnected with existing local transportation, would allow these people to work or relax during their commute instead of burning through petroleum on a crowded freeway.
The electric trains would help California fight global warming by taking cars off the road and planes out of the sky. The system is projected to save 12.7 million barrels of oil and 12 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year by 2030 even with future improvements in fuel efficiency, according to the California High Speed Rail Authority.
California has traditionally been ahead of the curve when it comes it to public works investments and planning for the future, especially in respect to climate change. While the project is undoubtedly expensive, it’s an investment in our state’s future that our children will thank us for.