“Shovel Ready” High Speed Rail? CA Is Ahead of the Game

Yesterday,
Vice President Joe Biden, met with governors from eight different
states that are competing for High Speed Rail funding.  Streetsblog’s
D.C. Correspondent wrote a story about the national implications
of the meeting available at our New York site.  While neither
Schwarzenegger nor another representative from California was present,
there was good news for California.  From today’s Times,

"The reason why California is looked at so closely — it’s been a
priority of your governor, it’s been a priority of your Legislature,
they’ve talked about it, a lot of planning has been done," Biden said
in a conference call with reporters.

The vice president said
the administration wants "to get shovel-ready projects out the door as
quickly as we can. . . . So California is in the game."

In
other words, because California has been working on the San Francisco
to San Diego High Speed Rail Corridor, and because voters put up funds
for the project in the form of bond money; we have a leg up in applying
for federal funds as the Obama Administration makes them available.

And let’s be clear, it’s not as though the entire corridor were "Shovel
Ready" but there are two sets of track that the California High Speed
Rail Authority says are ready to go.  The first is local, as the state
could connect Los Angeles to Anaheim at a cost of $3 billion.  The
second corridor would connect San Francisco to San Jose at somewhere
between $4 billion and $5 billion.

Back when the federal stimulus was first passed, Ben Fried out of our New York office wrote a pretty brutal takedown of the final bill
that I re-posted at the LA Streetsblog.  Supporters of California High
Speed Rail were upset for obvious reasons and I defended Fried’s post
in the comments section by saying.

But that so much of the negotition was done in Harry Reid’s office (to
the point that Pelosi actually pitched a fit about it according to
Politico) and he’s already talking about funding for the gamblin’ train
to Las Vegas, I am mighty sceptical that much, if any, of that money is
going to end up being spent on the line we supported last fall. If it
does, I’ll do a mea culpa post and you can all "I told you so’d" me.
I’ve certainly been willing to do them in the past.

Well,
let’s just say I’m not quite ready to eat crow just yet, but I got it
marinating.  In this case, the crow would taste awfully good.

  • I’ve got to say, I’m a little worried that other regions might feel short changed if too much HSR money is headed to California. I know we have the most advanced plan, but we also have a voter mandate to pursue the plan. I think the stimulus money should go towards regions that might not otherwise work on their own systems. Isn’t giving transit planners and urban designers a job for 5 years still stimulus?

  • In one reports on this week’s meeting between Secretary LaHood and the governors and officials interested in high-speed rail, there were some mention of Michigan being interested in manufacturing trains, not just running them. I know I’m off in fantasy land, but there’s a way to spread the funding and job creation: getting the states that aren’t as far along as California in planning into equipment manufacturing.

  • Lodi Dodi

    No way, Jeremiah. The majority of the funds should go to CA because they are the most shovel ready, have $10 Billion approved by the voters ready to go. SF to LA and back is also one of the busiest routes in the country. It’s one thing to have decades of planning, say we have $10 Billion and need Federal partnership. It’s another to have minimal planning and money, with palms out saying “me too.”

    Instead of spreading the money too thin and wasting, why not focus on one or two who have the most invested and reward them so that they can complete the projects that much faster.

  • Lodi Dodi is correct. The whole point of “stimulus funding” is to get money to shovel-ready projects. Whether the Midwest or Southeast has projects that can be ready in a decade is irrelevant because the projects funded by stimulus money must meet a certain timeline for completion.

    Plus, California has been a donor state for decades. It’s time we got some of that money back. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and all that.

  • Yeah, Jamison, here’s the link from Infrastructurist about Michigan Gov telling LaHood that her state should make trains.
    http://www.infrastructurist.com/2009/06/04/michigan-governor-use-car-factories-to-make-trains/

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