It’s too bad this project, which would be a wondrous benefit to California, is on uncertain grounds, as this article from the Sacramento Bee reports.
It’s been a dream for years in California’s sprawling Central Valley. Sleek bullet trains would race workers to and from booming Silicon Valley in the Bay Area, bridging the economic and cultural gap between urban and rural California.
Last week, with the words “let’s get real,” Gov. Gavin Newsom canceled that dream for now – and perhaps forever.
In his first State of the State speech, Newsom said what many have long thought: The state’s high-speed rail project, which has ballooned in price from $45 billion to $77 billion, is out of control and needs trimming. The governor later added the project otherwise would run out of money with nothing to show for it except “angst, frustration and finger-pointing.”
Instead of trying to link to the Bay Area, Newsom said he will focus on finishing the line currently under construction that will run 171 miles through the Valley from Merced to Bakersfield. He said it could open by 2027.
His plan, misconstrued by some initially as a complete abandonment of a two-decade effort, created shock waves, notably among Valley leaders who had been counting on high-speed rail as a conduit for economic development, including tech satellite offices near stations in Merced, Madera, Fresno and elsewhere.
“That’s one of the things we’ve been using as a carrot for a long time,” said Lee Ann Eager, head of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation. “Not just for Silicon Valley firms to expand here, but for people around the world to come here because they can get to Silicon Valley quickly.”
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, whose city has been torn up by rail line construction, hosted a meeting Wednesday with Newsom and the mayors of Merced and Bakersfield. He echoed Eager’s concern.
“This will do no good if it’s only from Bakersfield to Merced,” he said. “The connection to Silicon Valley and San Francisco benefits the entire Valley.”
Newsom contended he has not given up on a bigger high-speed rail system. The state intends to finish environmental studies for connector routes to L.A. and the Bay Area, and 220-mph bullet trains may one day reach the state’s coastal urban centers. But he steered clear of saying how and when those links might happen. He suggested in one conversation with reporters that a future route from Bakersfield to Los Angeles would, in fact, have to be completed with the help of federal and private money.
Retrieved February 18, 2019 from https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/big-valley/article226282855.html