Release of Business Plan Puts High-Speed Rail Back on Track

There’s no question that it’s been a difficult path forward for California’s high-speed rail project. Given how ambitious the plan is, even the project’s strongest supporters would tell you that the promise of high-speed rail wouldn’t come easy. For months, critics have – often unfairly – assailed the project for being unrealistic and lacking transparency. Today, those critics were silenced with the release of a realistic business plan that lay bare the challenges and costs moving forward, but also underscored the critical importance of the project to our state’s future.

High-speed rail has long been a priority for Labor. It holds the promise of creating a half a million jobs in coming years and more than a million jobs over the life of the project, many of which will be lasting private sector jobs.   In addition, high-speed rail will be an economic boon to communities along the route, especially in the Central Valley, where the recession has hit families extremely hard. And high-speed rail is consistent with our state’s transformation to a clean energy economy. But with a project the size and scope of this one – not to mention the cost – it was bound to have hiccups. And it has.

But today the California High-Speed Rail Authority assuaged concerns and took the much-needed step of detailing exactly how high-speed rail will be built, what it will cost and its benefits over the short and long term.

According to the Authority:

The new business plan describes a phased approach to construction that will allow the Authority to adapt to changing financial conditions as it moves forward, segment by segment. The plan also updates cost estimates, ridership figures and funding expectations to reflect current economic realities. The result is a fiscally sound project that will attract and drive private investment, generate strong revenues and operate without any public subsidies, just as other high speed rail networks do throughout the world.

That’s a desperately needed boost of reality and confidence investors and taxpayers need moving forward.

Rail Authority Board Chair Tom Umberg:

We have carefully constructed a business plan that is mindful of the economic and budgetary constraints facing both the state and the nation. It will deliver to California and Californians a cost-effective, efficient, and sensible alternative to more highways and increased airport congestion.

For workers, this project is a beacon of hope. With the construction sector still experiencing unemployment north of 30%, high-speed rail has the potential to put thousands back to work right away in good-paying jobs.

California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski:

The release of the business plan for high-speed rail today is an important step forward for this ambitious project. Californians have always been visionaries who see no limits to what we can do, build and achieve. By making high-speed rail a reality, California once again leads the nation in innovation to build prosperity. This is a time of great challenge and opportunity.  With unemployment stuck at around 12 percent, high-speed rail is an economic spark we need. High-speed rail is projected to create 450,000 jobs for Californians across the economy, supporting small businesses and alleviating unemployment in some of the areas hardest hit by the economic downturn.

It’s good to see the bullet train back on track. But its detractors, fueled by an anti-government agenda, aren’t going away, even though support for the project transcends ideology.

The bottom line is that California needs efficient, clean energy transportation and the jobs that come with it. Now’s the time to ratchet up the support for high-speed rail. It’s no longer a vision; it’s a reality. And anyone serious about creating a better future for our state should hop on board.