The future is on track - Page 2

Voters narrowly approve high-speed rail bond measure after a perilous run-up to the election


Peter Gertler, national transit director for HNTB Corp., the engineering firm working on the peninsula section of the project, helped organize his colleagues to hit the streets and phones. "We were very nervous. I didn't go to bed until 4 a.m.," he told the Guardian. After doing street-level campaigning, Gertler said he learned, "Overwhelmingly, everyone thinks this is a good idea."

Gertler said voters in California approved almost all the public transit measures on the ballot, signaling a new recognition of its importance: "Something fundamentally has changed."

He said the combination of high land values and the narrow corridor on the peninsula will present challenges in getting the section up and running — challenges that abound through the project area — but they're confident in the project's ultimate success.

"There are always going to be problems. This is the largest project in the history of the state," Kopp said. "The hard work is just beginning. But this was a foundational step."

The bond sales will likely be delayed by the current turmoil in the financial markets, but Kopp expects to get $50 million in the next state budget to complete the engineering work on the project. Construction could begin as soon as late 2010 and be completed in 2018, with some segments ready even earlier. The segment between San Francisco and San Jose could be operational by 2015, allowing trains to travel at speeds of up to 150 mph and complete the trip in just 30 minutes.

"It'll come in pieces, but at some point it'll really come together," said Brent Ogden, vice president of AECOM Transportation, one of the project's contractors, who is working on the regional rail connection over Altamont Pass. While not part of the main project, for which Prop. 1A set aside $9 billion, the Altamont connection is eligible for part of the $1 billion in the measure earmarked for regional connections.

"The first job for the Altamont is figuring out what it's going to be," Ogden said, adding that it could upgrade existing Altamont Commuter Express Rail lines and come on line even before the larger project.

Even if California and the rest of the country are in for a prolonged economic recession or even a depression, Kopp said the project would still likely move forward, noting that all the great public works projects — from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Hoover Dam — were built during the Great Depression and helped to revive the economy by creating jobs and stimuutf8g economic activity.

"We need projects," Kopp said. "We need to rebuild and expand the infrastructure of America."


<\!s>About 230 trains per week will travel between Transbay Terminal in San Francisco (where there will be about 9 million annual boardings) and Los Angeles' Union Station (about 10.8 million boardings). Trains will reach 220 mph and the trip will take two hours and 38 minutes.

<\!s>Fares will be about half that of air travel and generate about $2.4 billion in revenue to cover $1.3 billion in costs by 2030, thus generating about $1.1 billion in annual profits for the state once the project is paid for.

<\!s>The project will generate about 160,000 construction jobs and is projected to create 450,000 permanent jobs by 2035, including those indirectly created by the project.

<\!s>Even if there are unforeseen problems obtaining the full $33 billion in funding for the project, Prop.