Tuesday, June 05, 2007

California moves forward for $50 million for high speed rail this year

Sometimes having a state authority of high speed rail makes sense. In California, it might pay off. They've got an authority (website here) and this year they are making a move to avoid Governor Schwarzenegger's short-sighted cuts.

The Fresno Bee has the report here:

Two-thirds of California's congressional delegation has signed a letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger supporting much more funding for the state's proposed high-speed rail system than the governor's budget proposed.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said the 36 signatures include four other San Joaquin Valley representatives -- Reps. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced; Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield; Devin Nunes, R-Visalia; and George Radanovich, R-Mariposa.

He called the letter "a strong signal from Washington that California is serious about high-speed rail" and said the goal is to get $50 million in funding, about 10 times what the governor proposed.

This is great news. It's good to get federal legislators involved in the state budget process. Senator Dick Durbin was helpful in Illinois last year during the successful campaign to double the state appropriation for Amtrak to double service.

The Authority is clearly defining the ask. That's helpful to have an independent verification -- a professional agency and not just advocates -- of the ask and the benefits that flow from the ask.

In the Midwest, we have largely not advocated for the creation of a separate Authority for either improved Amtrak service or laying separated track for high speed rail, instead we've been working with state DOTs (who largely operate Amtrak service) for additional frequencies and capital investments to improve average speeds and reliability.

I suspect that if we ever want to make a multi-billion investment in laying new tracks, we'll need to create an Authority with separate bonding and taxing authority. That isn't in the cards for the forseeable future, at least as I see it.

Very good to see progress in California.


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