Governor Seeks Federal Funding for Bullet Train

After spending a year in early planning stages, the California High Speed Rail took a step forward on Oct. 2, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger filed an application on behalf of the state for $4.7 billion in federal funding to finance the project.

The California High Speed Rail Project began in November of 2008, when voters passed Proposition 1A and approved the allocation of $9.95 billion in state funds toward the creation of a super-modern train not unlike ones that already exist in Japan and Europe. The amount is only a fraction of the $33.6 billion that will ultimately be required to complete the 465 miles of track from Anaheim to San Francisco.

The remainder of the funds will be drawn from a mix of federal, private and local sources, with municipal governments expected to contribute $2 billion to $3 billion and public-private partnerships financing about $7 billion.

Additionally, the California High Speed Rail Authority is currently vying for $4.7 billion of federal money. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was passed in February to stimulate the national economy, set aside a total of $8 billion in transportation funds that the CHSRA — along with nine other railroads across the nation — is now lobbying for.

CHSRA spokesperson Valerie Martinez said that California is likely to receive the funds due to the extensive amount of progress that has been made on the project.

“Our project is further along than any other project in the country,” Martinez said.

California’s is “the first true high speed rail system,” in the nation as the train is designed to reach speeds of 220 mph, compared with the 125 mph trains on the proposed South Central High Speed Rail, which would connect Texas with Oklahoma and Arkansas.

In order to be defined as an express high speed rail, a train must operate above 150 mph, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. A train moving at 110 mph to 150 mph is defined as a regional high speed corridor.

Schwarzenegger said that the railroad will create thousands of new jobs, encourage development in locations with new train stations and ultimately benefit the environment by reducing carbon emissions and decreasing traffic congestion.

When completed, the high-speed train system will compete with other modes of transportation — namely cars, airplanes and pre-existing systems like the Pacific Surfliner.

Excluding the environmental component of long-distance travel, the CHSR website points out that the high speed rail will match up well in terms of cost-effectiveness and trip time. With the new train, a trip from San Diego to San Francisco will take approximately four hours and will cost $70. By car, the trip takes almost eight hours and costs an average of $71.33 in gas money, while a plane ticket can cost over $100.

For students traveling north for the holidays or visiting friends at other UC campuses, the high speed rail provides a viable alternative that may, according to John Muir College sophomore and Berkeley native Megan Young, prove to be less of a hassle.

“I think a lot of other [students] would also be more likely to take the train because … the difference is an hour and a half of their lives that would probably be taken up by sitting in [airport] security anyway, or waiting for a ride from the airport to home,” Young said.

The passage of Prop 1A drew criticism from several sources, including newspapers such as the San Diego Union-Tribune, as well as the California Chamber of Commerce. These opposing parties worried that the project’s high costs would further damage an economy already caught in a recession.

“There are many competing demands for resources in our state, and we must carefully set our funding priorities … there are other projects that mitigate congestion that should be a higher priority,” Allan Zaremberg, CEO and President of the CCC, said.

Earlier this month, the CHSRA held open “scoping meetings” in La Jolla and Los Angeles where it presented plans for the trains and their environmental impacts.

While construction on the rail will not open until 2010, the initial line connecting northern and southern California is expected to be completed by 2020. In the meantime, the CHSRA can expect a response regarding federal funding — and the future of the California High Speed Rail — by January 2010.

Additional reporting by Hayley Bisceglia-Martin

Readers can contact Kashi Khorasani at [email protected].

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