Electric-powered California High Speed Rail is the best transportation alternative between corridors of large cities within the state. Its high-speed, high-capacity & high-frequency compliments Amtrak, Commuter Rail, Metro Rail, Buses and Highways. It allows airports to focus resources on what they do best — longer flights. By optimizing Airports, HSR, Amtrak, Commuter Rail, Metro Rail, Buses and Highways, California can also gain transformational mobility that mitigates congestion, cuts smog and battles Climate Change, like our advanced neighbors in Europe and Asia.
Population Growth Straining California Freeways and Airports
In 1980, California freeways and airports matched population well. Travelers could drive 400 miles between Downtown Los Angeles and San Francisco in 5 1/2 hours with a break in between. Travelers could arrive at the airport, purchase a ticket, breeze through security, board a plane, fly in-state and walk to in-airport terminal rental car centers — all in 2 1/2 hours.
California population growth, as measured by Statista and forecast by Public Policy Institute of California, paints an unpleasant picture for freeways and airports, if passenger rail alternatives are not developed:
1980 23.7 million
1990 29.8 million
2000 33.9 million
2010 37.3 million
2020 40.7 million
2030 44.1 million
2040 47.6 million
By 2019, metro area populations swelled to 18.8M in Los Angeles, 7.7M in San Francisco Bay, 3.9M in San Diego and 2.2M in Sacramento. The last 40 years of population growth means more people drive and and fly over longer travel times.
Though airline ticketing is available online, more vehicles clog airport roadway. There are longer lines for security screening. Boarding/unboarding, usually through one jet door, costs valuable time, along with more runway taxi time for jets. Most rental cars centers have moved away from airport terminals costing time as well. Since there are vastly more Northern California-Southern California flights, they produce significantly more smog and Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and travel time for in-state flights now ranges from 3.5 to 4.5 hours.
For travelers who choose Northern California-Southern California freeway driving, congestion and Slow Zones for freeway repair have increased travel time from 5.5 hours to 6.5 hours. The same drive during holidays is an 8-hour nightmare. On the ground, freight trucks produce the most airborne emissions. Freeway congestion delay triggers even more freight truck emissions.
Flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco are the second busiest in America, transporting over 8 million passengers annually. They are also the most delayed in the country — one of every four flights are late. Given LAX and SFO are respectively, the 2nd and 7th busiest airports in America, attracting more Boeing and Airbus long distance jets — without more runways.
California Freeway Widening Becoming Fool’s Gold
No state has expanded as many freeways, nor added as many HOV lanes as California. Yet, Los Angeles and San Francisco are 2 of the 5 most roadway-congested cities in the world. Most freeway widenings in Greater LA and San Francisco Bay Area reached their maximum efficiency at 8 lanes around 1990. Ditto for San Diego by 2000 and Sacramento by 2005. Since then, widening freeways to 10-14 lanes in those metro areas has been Fool’s Gold. Rush Hour speeds in San Francisco Bay Area are getting worse. A University of Southern California transportation study has measured the impact of inefficient capacity per lane. On the busiest 12-14-lane freeways in LA average speed is 21-25 mph during Rush Hour and getting worse.
A three-part answer explains why. The first part is population growth. Second, the mathematics of Queuing Theory explains that for each added freeway lane, drivers spend more time adjusting speeds and lateral motion for lane changing than forward motion. That reduces automotive thru-put per lane per hour. Third, added lanes psychologically induce more solo-driving to enjoy a slightly decongested freeway. In 2 years however, population growth increases the number of solo-drivers to reproduce congestion again. Widening beyond 1 HOV lane and 3 standard freeway lanes reduces capacity per lane per hour and progressively worsens with each additional lane.
Fertile soil, sunny days and water from canal infrastructure make Central Valley one of the world’s great agricultural regions. Economic bounty from agriculture, freight rail, freight trucking and establishing three universities helped Central Valley towns sprout into mid-size cities in only 75 years. Now the U.S. Census Bureau forecasts Central Valley cities (Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Fresno, Hanford-Visalia-Porterville, Bakersfield, Palmdale) to add 10 million people between 2010-2040. Most Central Valley residents drive or ride by car to LA, San Francisco Bay, San Diego and Sacramento metro areas. Conversely, Central Valley cities are gateways to most of California’s astonishing national parks. They attract drivers from Greater LA, San Francisco Bay, San Diego and Sacramento metro areas.
Despite the modest growth rate of Central Valley cities, airlines cut flights from Greater LA, San Francisco Bay, San Diego and Sacramento metro areas to them because they make more profit using runway slots and terminal gates for bigger planes carrying longer flights. Since flights to Central Valley cities are a vanishing option, I-5 and SR-99 freeway congestion between LA and San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento is growing. That’s a big deal because intercity driving is a big contributor to traffic congestion costs California residents $28 billion/year in lost time and wasted fuel.
California Transportation Greenhouse Gases Contribute to Climate Change
California acquired the nickname “Golden State” due to golden brush populating its magnificent hillsides and the many sunny days lighting them. Given alternating drought conditions and the increase of deadly wildfires fueled by ignitable brush and rising temperatures in the last 15 years, you no longer have to convince most Californians that the negative effects of Climate Change have arrived. Rising Carbon Dioxide levels, followed by increasing Methane Gas and Nitrous Oxide, are the primary Greenhouse Gases (GHG) trapping heat in the atmosphere. In America, Transportation sector is the largest contributor to GHG emissions.
The most recent chart (below) from U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) illustrates state-by-state Carbon Dioxide numbers. As the two most populous states with the most solo-drivers, short flights, freight rail and freight trucking, Texas and California generate the most GHG from transportation. In California, the numbers include significant emissions from cargo ships at its seaports.
The Union of Concerned Scientists sounds the alarm bell that America must cut GHG emissions by 56% from 2005 by 2030 or we will be responsible for more frequent wildfires, droughts, floods, hurricanes and other negative results from Climate Change. The good news is Transportation is an economic sector where we can make huge GHG reductions by 2030, while improving economic productivity at the same time.
California Transportation Smog Has Lowered, But Not Enough to Reduce Lung Disease
Like GHG emissions, most smog is transportation-related. Smog has bedeviled California cities since automobiles rose to prominence in the 1930s. In response, the state is leading America’s most aggressive initiatives to reduce smog and GHG emissions from cars, buses, freight trucking, freight rail, airports and seaports. Californians are also adopting electric cars at a faster pace than most states. Excluding wildfires, the air in Greater LA is no longer brown on sunny days. But it still gets hazy.
Despite smog reduction progress by cars, buses, freight rail and seaports, California cities still dominate the American Lung Association list of metro areas suffering the nation’s worst ozone pollution — the main component of smog. High smog levels in metro areas trigger higher levels of asthma and other lung diseases among populations within a mile of freeways, airports and seaports.
California has a Central Valley running most of the state surrounded by mountain ranges to the west and east. The combination of airborne emissions from transportation & farming, surrounding mountains, in-bound marine clouds from the Pacific Ocean, many days of sunlight and warm temperature creates inversion layers that trap smog. Despite lower polluting cars, buses and trains, as California’s average heat levels rises, it is more difficult to eliminate inversion layers. That is why, 90% of Californians live in unhealthy air counties per EPA standards — particularly those in LA, San Francisco Bay and San Diego metro areas, and the Central Valley.
California and the rest of the nation are not doing enough to reduce smog & GHG emissions, particularly from regional flights, freight trucking and solo-driving. In terms of transportation smog, we’re still gasping for clean air.
California Needs Green, Fast, High-Capacity, High Frequency Passenger Transportation
The State of California is fighting to lower GHG emissions contributing to Climate Change, smog contributing to lung diseases, and population growth congesting highways. That is why in 2008, California voters authorized a $9.95 billion bond to kickstart the electric-powered, high-speed, high-capacity, high frequency rail system to be built in two phases:
520-mile Phase 1 (San Francisco-San Jose-Gilroy-Central Valley-Burbank-Los Angeles-Anaheim)
280-mile Phase 2 (Merced-Sacramento and Los Angeles-San Diego extensions)
California HSR will be capable of 220 mph on Central Valley viaduct separated from automotive traffic and 90-110 mph through urban areas. California HSR track will be capable of 8 trains per hour at peak with commercial operation from about 5am-Midnight. Once all over/underpasses are completed in urban areas, it will be capable of 97% on-time performance like other world-class HSR systems. At build out, California HSR will have over 35 million rider capacity to couple with over 12 million rider capacity from enhanced Amtrak California services.
California HSR needs such speed, capacity, frequency and dependability to move over 50,000 riders/day who would otherwise clog freeways and consume airport resources better used for longer flights as national and international travel to California grows.
The system is being constructed by a “new” California High Speed Rail Authority. I emphasize “new” because the Authority made rookie mistakes underestimating costs, property acquisition and construction schedules that critics pounced on. Nevertheless, public outreach, feasibility studies, environmental studies, engineering design and enough property acquisition completed for the mega-project to break ground in January 2015.
In 2019, California High Speed Rail (HSR) Authority arrived at a $79 billion Phase 1 cost estimate using 9 years of staff & consultant experience on the project, consultants from successful HSR projects worldwide, and best practice in infrastructure cost & risk modeling via Monte Carlo Simulation. Phase 2 cost is TBD due to unknown start date and route alignments yet to be decided.
Though lengthy HSR viaduct is the most expensive component of Phase 1, long tunnels are the most challenging component because they have so many unknowns. Underground rivers, abandoned utilities, gas pockets, surprise geological conditions, uncharted mines and historic artifacts undermine the best cost & schedule estimates. To reduce the unknowns, or as civil engineers like to say, “de-risk” tunneling projects, California HSR Authority has studied older rail tunnels in the same Northern and Southern California mountain ranges where HSR tunnels are planned. Geologists have taken deep core samples of planned alignments in those mountains. Swiss tunnel consultants who worked on the longest rail tunnels under the Alps have been contracted. Though all environmental studies complete in 2021, no long tunnel project can be fully de-risked until the boring completes. If costs rise, it will primarily be due to tunneling unknowns and funding delays that invite inflation.
Initial criticism of Phase 1’s underestimated cost & schedule served a public good by forcing California HSR Authority to get its act together. Preying on the public’s lack of knowledge about infrastructure costs, California HSR critics repeat the same tropes in news media to dull the public’s judgment with lies, half-truths and opinion misrepresented as fact. But don’t refute the compelling value proposition for California HSR.
Bogus Criticisms of California High Speed Rail
• Californians Always Prefer Freeways & Flying
• Its a Boondoggle Train to No Where
• There’s Little Value to Greater LA and San Francisco Bay Area
• Trains won’t go 200+ mph to meet Schedule Projections
• It Won’t Have Capacity to meet Ridership Projections
There is No Cost-effective Alternative to California HSR Phase 1
Trope-critics don’t mention that eight of the nine largest California airports have no adjacent open land for runway expansion. They don’t mention that due to existing burden of air and noise pollution, airport-adjacent communities in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles, Burbank, Irvine, Ontario and San Diego reject more land-taking for airport runways. Some have blocked adding airport terminal gates. Only Sacramento International Airport has open land to add runways and terminal gates. Trope-critics don’t mention that airlines are canceling regional flights to Central Valley cities.
Trope-critics don’t mention that the state has already converted freeway medians to lanes throughout LA, San Francisco Bay, San Diego and Sacramento metro areas. Land values are surging and the last “easy” freeway widenings complete by 2023-24. Trope-critics don’t mention that the Central Valley is on pace for 10 million population by 2040. They overlook hard data that more coastal Californians and visitors are clogging Central Valley freeways to reach our great national parks. Trope-critics don’t mention that Millennials want more passenger rail & bikeways, less driving options. Trope-critics dare not mention that 5 countries already operate HSR at 200-217 mph.
Here are the compelling TOURISM BUSINESS, PROPERTY OWNER & TAXPAYER reasons to fund California HSR. In 2018, Tourism generated over $140 billion, $12 billion in taxes revenue, 1.2 million jobs and $6 of every $10 spent by travelers came from other states and countries. Most non-state travelers are from the Northeast, Asia and Europe, where they already prefer HSR, Intercity Rail, Commuter Rail and Metro Rail for travel under 500 miles. Polling of Millennial transportation preferences shows that they want less driving and more passenger rail options. Airlines to LA and San Francisco Bay Area airports are shifting from sub-500-mile flights to long distance flights using their finite number of runway slots. Residents and visitors took 361 million annual intra-state trips via all modes of travel in 2010. California intra-state travel is forecast to increase to 545 million trips annually by 2040. Even if airlines were not shifting away from short flights, California freeways and airports can not cost-effectively expand compared to the alternative.
In a report commissioned by the California HSR Authority with access to State of California highway and aviation data, the cost of adding equivalent passenger capacity in freeways and airports is estimated to be:
$170 billion for 2300 new Freeway-lane miles + 115 Airport gates & 4 runways
$79 billion for California HSR Phase 1
Trope-critics love to complain about California HSR cost. Some property owners also complain about California HSR acquiring land for 2 lanes and 6 stations in the Central Valley. Now imagine the cost of carving or tunneling 8 new freeway lanes through the mountains of Angeles National Forest to reach LA and San Diego. Since the freeway & interchange alternative requires 4 times more land, the state highway department would have vastly more difficulty acquiring property. Moreover, lawsuits have already prevented and constrained airport expansion in LA, San Francisco Bay and San Diego.
Compared to the alternatives, California HSR is a lower cost, less-property required, environmentally-friendly, high-capacity bargain to keep tourism business and tax revenues growing at lower taxes to state residents.
California HSR Door-to-Door Travel Time Advantage
Going from city-hub to city-hub in 3 hours or less has more benefits. Thousands of passengers arrive at city-hub stations by High Speed Rail (like TGV & Amtrak Acela), Intercity Passenger Rail (rest of Amtrak), Commuter Rail, Metro Rail, Bus Rapid Transit and shuttles instead of more low-capacity cars that congest freeways. The latter benefit is why California HSR, Amtrak, Commuter Rail, Metro Rail and Bus Rapid Transit qualify for state GHG Reduction funds. Highways and airports do not. City-hub stations fill with lounges, cafes, artwork, business services and attract nearby hotels. Some have upscale shops and great plazas for people-watching as well. Patrons on mobile devices enjoy productive or relaxing travel time at transportation hubs as well as on trains.
Amtrak, Commuter Rail, Metro Rail, Buses & Shuttles Will Feed Patrons to California HSR
Despite the 2019 spat between the Governor and President, California HSR Phase 1 construction continues on the 119-mile Central Valley superstructure. That’s before additional federal and state funding is secured to extend that to 171 miles in the Central Valley. Greater LA and San Francisco Bay Area are the “Bookends” to California HSR Phase 1, 4 Amtrak lines, 3 Commuter Rail systems, and 4 Metro Rail systems.
Most track used by Amtrak California is limited by federal regulation and old signaling systems to 79 mph. Too much of its mileage has poor track conditions, track shared with freight trains and hairpin curves that often limit speed to 39-59 mph. Even worse, Amtrak California has 1 track for 2-way traffic in too many places and too many railroad crossings where trains must an extra 10-30 mph slow for safety. The single Amtrak train between Los Angeles and Oakland takes a painfully slow 8 1/2 hours overnight.
Cheer up! Improvement is on the way for 4 Amtrak California routes (Pacific Surfliner, Capital Corridor, San Joaquin Oakland, San Joaquin Sacramento) that have stations to be shared with California HSR.
The state, commuter rail agencies and freight rail companies are partnering with Amtrak California to incrementally construct 2nd track, more siding track for idle or slow freight trains, overpasses/underpasses and signaling improvements each year. Recently, the Bookends have been adding Positive Train Control technology to prevent train accidents.
Pacific Surfliner operates in the nation’s second busiest Amtrak route — 2.95 million annual riders. Pacific Surfliner South operates between Downtown LA and Downtown San Diego at 49-90 mph and 12 weekday roundtrips over a 3 hour travel time. Parallel to the tracks, I-5 Freeway has a weekday Los Angeles-San Diego 2 hours 30 minutes travel time and slowing. Projects are underway that will shave at least 15 minutes off that travel time by 2025. The faster Pacific Surfliner South gets, the more drivers on congested I-5 will see and envy competitive travel time by train.
Capitol Corridor has similar route upgrades and electric train plans for similar performance and ridership improvements. Today, San Joaquin Oakland-Bakersfield shares the first chunk of its track with Capital Corridor up to Martinez, then proceeds separately to Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Hanford and Bakersfield. Though Amtrak San Joaquin services services will suffice with faster diesel-electric locomotives and route upgrades will boost Amtrak San Joaquin Oakland-Bakersfield and Amtrak San Joaquin Sacramento-Bakersfield speeds and connect to the first 171 miles of California HSR at Merced Station.
The first intermodal transportation hubs to be shared with California HSR have already opened in San Francisco, SFO Airport and Anaheim. Massive upgrades to Los Angeles and San Jose intermodal hubs have begun final design and pre-engineering. Initial planning for Fresno, Bakersfield and Palmdale intermodal hubs has started.
Though not pictured on the map above, more Metro Rail and Bus Rapid Transit lines will make California HSR highly accessible as well. LA rapid transit network is expanding to 4 or 5 planned California HSR stations. Anaheim Regional Intermodal Transportation Center (ARTIC) is the Orange County hub between Amtrak, Metrolink, Disneyland & Anaheim Convention Center shuttles, regional buses and Taxi/Uber/Lyft today and California HSR in the future.
San Francisco Bay Area rapid transit network is expanding and will access four planned California HSR Stations. In 2018, Salesforce Transit Center completed in DT San Francisco for Greyhound, Megabus, Amtrak coaches, regional buses, Taxi/Uber/Lyft and bikeshare. When the tunnel extension to Salesforce Transit Center opens, its lower level will serve Caltrain commuter rail and eventually, California HSR. Salesforce Transit Center has been the catalyst to a redevelopment boom in that area of San Francisco. San Mateo and Burlingame railway overpasses will soon begin construction to unsnarl roadway traffic, while making Caltrain safer and quieter before California HSR service.
Here is a sample of Amtrak, Caltrain, BART, Metrolink, Metro Heavy Rail, Light Rail projects and transit-oriented development coming before California HSR Phase 1 completes:
2019-21 Google is building a 20,000-person village surrounding San Jose Diridon Transportation Center to ease employee transport from all parts of Northern California. Over 500 Small/Disadvantaged/Disabled Veteran businesses are working on the California HSR project, earning over $251 million to date.
2021: California HSR funding helps LA Metro Light Rail complete an underground connector for two lines that feed LA Union Station, DT Los Angeles and one line that serves USC and LA Coliseum to host the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.
2022: California HSR funding helps Caltrain commuter rail complete electrification between San Francisco-San Jose for faster, frequent, greener and quieter trains.
2024: California HSR completes more railroad overpasses in the Central Valley for smoother automotive and freight rail flow. California HSR funding helps complete railroad grade separations in LA Union Station-Anaheim corridor for faster, quieter and safer Metrolink and Amtrak services.
2025: California HSR funding helps complete San Jose Diridon Transportation Center upgrade for more frequent Caltrain, BART (Metro Heavy Rail), VTA Light Rail, BRT, shared rides, taxis, local buses and bikeshare.
2026-27 California HSR funding helps complete LA Union Station (Link US) upgrade for ridership increases coming from LA Museum District, Beverly Hills, Century City, UCLA/Westwood, and all other points of the compass. California HSR helps complete a tunnel to Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco, enabling electric Caltrain service in the entire San Francisco-San Jose-Gilroy corridor.
2028: Amtrak San Joaquin Oakland and Amtrak San Joaquin Sacramento trains speed-boost to 90-110 mph and connect at Merced to California HSR trains that run up to 220 mph in Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield corridor. Amtrak Motorcoach connects from a northern Metrolink station to California HSR Bakersfield station. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner will likely run 24 daily roundtrips and mostly 90-110 mph over Chatsworth-Burbank-LA Union Station-Anaheim-Oceanside-San Diego corridor. More Metro Light Rail extensions and Metrolink upgrades to LA Union Station complete in time for the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.
2029-30: More overpasses complete for Caltrain to increase frequency and reach 90 mph. Upgrades will boost Metrolink to 90 mph and double frequency in its Chatsworth-Burbank-LA Union Station-Anaheim-Oceanside corridor and Sylmar-Burbank-LA Union Station-Anaheim-Oceanside corridor.
California HSR Design Benefits From Worldwide HSR Leaders
Transporting 10 billion passengers through earthquake country since 1964, Japan’s HSR system has never experienced a deadly accident due to technology or operator error. Shinkansen High Speed Trains (HST) are famous for running 12 cabin trains at 20 trains per hour with an earthquake warning system that automatically brakes trains in case of large earthquake. In 2011, the 9.0 Earthquake and Tsunami killed hundreds of people, washed away Sendai Airport and triggered a nuclear power plant meltdown. Japanese railway engineering design however, prevented a single HST in operation from derailing. After safety checks, Shinkansen HST returned to service hours later.
Since opening in 1981, France has never experienced a deadly HSR accident during commercial operation and only once in test mode. Their famed HSR system, the TGV, has set many train speed standards. German and British railway engineers have mastered connectivity and timed-transfers between HSR, Commuter Rail, Metro Rail and Trams (Light Rail) to maximize ridership and passenger convenience. The Swiss have built the world’s longest high-speed rail tunnels under the Alps, permitting HST speeds up to 155 mph through them.
HST already commercially operate at 155-217 mph. R&D is further improving HST with less aerodynamic drag, lower exterior noise and lower cabin noise at higher speeds. Over 2020-26, France, Japan, China, Spain, South Korea, Italy and United Kingdom will introduce HST that operate up to 224 mph with lower energy consumption per unit of speed as compared to current HST.
California HSR Authority is hiring some of their best railway and tunneling consultants to join with local geologists and civil engineers. The Authority plans to license a private HST operator to run HST at 220 mph in Merced-Madera-Fresno-Hanford-Bakersfield viaduct. Alstom Avelia Horizon is one of several candidate HST.
Once Federal Funding Steps Up, Big Private Funding Follows
In 2009-10, President Obama authorized $3.5 billion towards California HSR project. Since 2011, California HSR bond money, state transportation, state environmental protection funds, regional taxes, county taxes, city & freight rail rights-of-way and naming rights fees are paying for most construction.
Google is buying property between San Jose Diridon Transportation Center and San Jose International Airport to gain a labor market advantage with more employees who take rapid transit or HSR to work and those who need to fly often. In San Francisco, Salesforce is paying $110 million for 25-year naming rights to what was formerly called Transbay Transit Center. Anaheim, San Jose, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Fresno, Burbank and Anaheim will entertain Transit Oriented Development and possibly, naming rights proposals.
The governor and California HSR Authority have identified sufficient state and local funding for Amtrak Oakland and Amtrak Sacramento lines to meet up with California HSR Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield viaduct. It will complete many overpasses, 2-tracking, signaling and safety upgrades in the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater LA Bookends by summer 2028.
According to 2019 California HSR Business Plan Update, it will cost about $12 billion to go from San Jose to Gilroy, then through a new Pacheco Pass tunnel to connect with Central Valley HSR viaduct near Merced (San Jose-Merced segment). Federal and State money must build this segment before big private investors jump in, beyond paying for station naming rights.
The California governor commits to build the Merced-Bakersfield HSR segment with a Merced stub attaching to Amtrak San Joaquin Oakland & Sacramento services. California HSR will need $12 billion from USDOT to build the San Jose-Merced/Madera HSR segment that will create a San Francisco-Bakersfield corridor plus the Merced Stub to Amtrak services.
Around the world in democratic nations, most 155+ mph HSR routes in 10 million-person corridors generate operating profit in 5-6 years. Those conditions will entice big private investors to join federal and state funding sources. Big private investors would then have two opportunities to join:
• Bakersfield-Palmdale segment ($13 billion) to extend service to the edge of Greater LA
• Palmdale-Burbank segment ($17 billion) containing the longest HSR tunnel in California
Ideally, both segments should enter construction at the same time to limit cost inflation.
The state is not asking for a federal hand-out. In the last 40 years, California taxpayers have given far more than they receive from the federal government. If California HSR received $35 billion from the U.S. Department of Transportation on top of current federal funding levels, California would still be a donor state to the U.S. Treasury.
Conclusion — Voters Want A Big Transportation Infrastructure Deal
Infrastructure Investment is the one area of unanimous support by voters regardless of party preference. Commuters want it to reduce traffic congestion. Trade unions want it for jobs. Corporations want it so employees can get to work easier. Manufacturers want it for better logistics and lower shipping costs. Agribusiness wants it for more water. Chambers of Commerce want ti for more economic activity. Environmentalists want it to mitigate GHG. Health Care Providers want it to cut smog emissions that lead to lung disease.
In November 2016, the current president made a campaign promise of $1 trillion for infrastructure investment that would generate millions of good-paying jobs. That promise had appeal to unemployed and underemployed craft workers. Hoping to receive more federal matching funds, every state started passing infrastructure bills for long delayed and new mega-projects.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis and International Monetary Fund reports that American GDP was $19.4 Trillion in 2017 and California’s GDP was equivalent to the United Kingdom. Understanding the size of our economy and governors reminding him about infrastructure project backlog, the new president appeared to want a large Infrastructure Bill in 2017. For reasons unclear, the President did not convince his Republican-majority congressional party to accept a larger Infrastructure budget increase and a smaller tax cut for the wealthy. If he did, the Democrat-minority congressional party would have signed off.
2020 Democratic Presidential candidates are educating million of voters that fixing old and building new infrastructure will create millions of good-paying jobs. Its near certain that a large U.S. Infrastructure Bill will pass in 2021. California is among the states demanding more Transportation investment, particularly for expensive HSR, Amtrak, Commuter Rail and Metro Rail projects. The timing is critical for California because in 2021, Environmental Impact Reports complete for all viaduct and tunnel segments in California HSR Phase 1.
San Francisco Bay Area and LA Bookends will benefit from enhanced commuter rail in corridors to be shared with California High Speed Rail later. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner will benefit from enhanced Burbank Airport-LA Union Station-Anaheim corridor segment to be shared with California High Speed Rail later. Virgin Trains Las Vegas-Los Angeles HSR project is gaining funding momentum . It plans to use Palmdale-Burbank Airport-LA Union Station corridor segment to be shared with California High Speed Rail later. All those passenger rail services will make visionary investment pay-off for commuters and travelers, just as visionary investment paid off for Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Short-sighted critics also called them a boondoggle.
Our federal leaders must regain the will of visionary leaders who built great bridges, airports, rail tunnels and dams long ago. They must return to an era like the 1970s, when America invested 3.5% of GDP in Transportation to boost productivity. When they do, it will not be strange for the feds to invest $35 billion in California High Speed Rail and make similar, appropriately-scaled investments in the Las Vegas-LA, Northeast Corridor, Texas, Midwest and Northwest HSR.