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Recommended: "Bullet train is California's latest dream"

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  • m82a1_dawson@hotmail.com
    _________________________________________________________________________ m82a1_dawson@hotmail.com has recommended this article from The Christian Science
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 7, 2004
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      Headline: Bullet train is California's latest dream
      Byline: Daniel B. Wood Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
      Date: 02/04/2004

      (LOS ANGELES)Someday a 700-mile bullet train may shoot north-south through
      California, and already the idea means that fresh debate is shooting
      through this state on quality-of-life issues ranging from smog to
      congestion, from sprawl to the Golden State virtue of mobility.

      Of course, the estimated price tag of $37 billion for a high-speed rail
      from San Diego, to L.A., to San Francisco - with possible connections
      through the Central Valley to Sacramento - is raising eyebrows during
      the current budget crunch.

      But that isn't stopping anyone here from at least pondering the bliss
      of a rapid ride through oak-adorned hills while enveloped in a cushy

      In fact, the first $10 billion of the cost, for a first leg of the
      project, is currently planned for a November vote.

      Costly, but perhaps not costliest

      Some say that vote could be derailed. But a new draft report by the
      state commission that has been studying the project for years, says the
      cost may be half of other alternatives for transporting a projected 68
      million riders by 2020.

      To move the same people by car and/or plane would require $82 billion
      of upgrades, including 2,970 additional miles of freeway lanes, 60 new
      airport gates and five new runways, the report says..

      "Up to 98 million more intercity [region to region] trips and 11
      million more [residents] will mean a greater demand on the state's
      infrastructure," says the study by the California High Speed Rail
      Authority. That growth will result in "more traffic congestion, reduced
      safety, more air pollution, longer travel times, less reliability, and
      less predictability in intercity travel."

      Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed putting off the vote,
      looking over his shoulder at his own proposed $15 billion bond measure
      to solve the state's financial crunch. But other transportation experts
      and agencies are welcoming formal dialogue because it could inform
      substantive debate about other projects planned up and down the state.

      Long-term land use questions

      "The notion of a high-speed rail in California, if taken seriously, has
      to be connected with land use and development patterns which could be a
      long-term determinant in how and where California grows," says Martin
      Wachs, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the
      University of California, Berkeley, and a professor of regional
      planning. Divorced from ideas on how to connect the rail to current and
      future development, the rail could be little used and ill-advised he
      said. But with proper planning and coordination, which is politically
      and legally very difficult, the train could be highly useful.

      Wachs and others have questioned the report's estimated cost of the
      rail, which would connect L.A., San Jose, and San Francisco, with
      extensions to San Diego and Sacramento. A 1999 estimate for the rail
      was only $25 billion. And they say environmental impacts are subject to
      great change as the project proceeds, both as elevated rail, in
      trenches and through tunnels.

      The railroad's cars would travel up to 200 miles per hour or more,
      making them competitive with jets, which now shuttle customers from San
      Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland to several Los Angeles-area airports.
      The 2 hour, 25 minute train ride from San Francisco to L.A. compares
      with a 1 hour, 20 minute flight time between the city's two
      international airports.

      "So much depends on what ensues over the years, from the price of gas
      for automobiles and planes, to airline ticket prices, to development
      patterns," says Wachs. "So much of land use issues are politically
      volatile because they are largely locally controlled."

      Highways not enough

      Others say that no matter what the fate of high-speed rail, some new
      vision of transportation across California is warranted.

      "It's going to take a lot more than more or wider highways to solve
      California's growing transportation needs in 20 years," says Steve
      Finnegan, analyst for the Southern California Auto Club.

      He says an entirely new freeway may need to parallel Highway 5, which
      dissects the Central Valley, just to accommodate population growth
      there, regardless of any new rail. And he says more studies are
      currently focused on congestion within metro regions, regarding quality
      of life, economic growth, health, safety and other issues.

      "The state needs to look at what are the highest priorities for
      spending whatever transportation dollars it can get," says Finnegan.
      "The debate needs to answer what is the most effective."

      (c) Copyright 2004 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.

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