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Now That It's Funded, is CA HSR Unstoppable?

TIME's senior national correspondent posits that once the first shovel begins digging int the Central Valley, the $68 billion project will be hard to stop, regardless of the fact that no federal funding awaits as long as the GOP controls the House.
July 12, 2012, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Michael Grunwald writes that the top story in the country last week was the California Senate's appropriation of $8 billion to high speed rail.

"The mega-project still faces political, logistical and financial uncertainties, but it now has a path to construction-and as I've written, once construction starts it will be tough to stop. That's a big deal for President Obama and the high-speed rail program he launched in his 2009 stimulus bill."

In that 2010 piece, Grunwald quoted America's master builder himself:

"Robert Moses had a legendary strategy for ambitious public-works projects: start now, and figure out how to finish later. "Once you sink that first stake," he liked to say, "they'll never make you pull it up."

"America can only build so many superhighways, and short-haul flights may become prohibitively expensive as the era of cheap fuel ends. High-speed trains are nice ways to travel, and they can reduce road and air congestion as well as carbon emissions and fuel costs. They can also be extremely profitable; the hope is that once government shows a tangible commitment to the project, private companies will help finance the rest of the infrastructure. Of course, high-speed rail projects also create construction jobs-once construction actually begins."

No one was more pleased by the Senate vote than the Governor himself, reported Chris Megerian in Oakland for the Los Angeles Times.

"It's a jobs creator, and thank God we got it," Gov. Jerry Brown said of funding for high speed rail, narrowly approved by the Legislature last week. He and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood were at the Port of Oakland on Monday to take a victory lap."

LaHood called the vote a 'game changer', reported Aarti Shahani for KQED News, also covering the Port visit.

As for the very pleased LaHood, he wrote in his Fast Lane blog, "In the next 20 years, California expects more than 7 million additional residents. But, as the state's residents know all too well, the highways between California cities are already congested, and short-haul takeoff and landing slots at Golden State airports are at a premium. That's why California High Speed Rail remains such an important priority for the state's business, labor, and transportation communities."

LaHood referenced a June 25 San Jose Mercury News op-ed written by two Silicon Valley Leadership Group executives that illustrated just how high a priority the high speed rail train is for the business community. Interestingly, one was David Cust, CEO of Virgin America, a potential competitor to the train.

Thanks to Scott Lay

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Published on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 in Time
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