Whitman criticized for opposing high-speed rail

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California high-speed rail would zip riders from downtown SF to downtown LA in less than three hours.

By Brittany Baguio

Although Republican gubernatorial Meg Whitman claims job creation is one of her top priorities, she recently stated that she opposes the plan to build a high-speed rail system in California – a project that is being eagerly anticipated in San Francisco, its northern terminus.

Whitman says the state does not have enough money to fund the project because of the state’s current budget deficit, but labor, environmental, and other groups say it will be a boon to the state's economy and environment. Voters approved Proposition 1A in November 2008, supporting the construction of a high-speed rail system with an initial investment of $9.95 billion in bond money.

Proponents say the project will alleviate freeway and airport congestion and provide a green transportation option that has both short- and long-term economic benefits. According to the California High-Speed Authority website, the project would create 160,000 constructed-related jobs as well as 450,000 more jobs by 2035. The construction of the rail system would also improve the movement of people, goods, and services throughout California and ultimately raise more than $1 billion in surplus revenue a year.

“We are eager to thoroughly brief whoever the next governor is on this project and work with him or her to make California’s high-speed rail system a reality,” California High-Speed Rail Authority representative Rachel Wall told the Guardian.

Supporters of the bullet train disagree with Whitman’s analysis and contend that the construction of a bullet train would create revenue and jobs. In a press release, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said, “In her glossy TV ads, Whitman says she understands the daily hardships facing our state’s unemployed, but it’s clear that’s just more campaign rhetoric. In opposing high-speed rail, she’s shown her true colors on jobs. It’s shocking that a candidate for Governor could be so detached from the economic hardships facing our state’s families. With one in eight Californians out of work, how can we afford not to invest in the creation of hundreds of thousands of permanent, good new jobs?”

Communications director of the California Labor Federation, Steve Smith, believed that Whitman’s opposition exhibited her political inexperience and uninformed decisions. “She’s out there talking a big game about job creation, but no specifics about how she would create jobs,” Smith told us. “Her proposals would be devastating to California and would lead to higher unemployment in California. She says that California can’t afford the project, but what we can’t afford is not to take advantage of improving our economy and environment.”

Whitman isn’t the only one opposing the project. Bay Area cities of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Burlingame, Belmont, and Atherton have all voiced concerns about the project and the impact of trains move rapidly through those communities, filing a lawsuit seeking to halt the project.

The bullet train project was awarded $2.25 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last January and is currently undergoing supplemental environmental reviews. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2012, with improvements such as rail electrification expected to improve rail service on the San Francisco peninsula even before the high-speed trains start running around 2020.

Assuming the public-private project isn't derailed politically and can raise the estimated $40 billion total cost, the trains will travel at speeds of up to 220 mph and take passengers from the LA Union Station to San Francisco's Transbay Terminal in less than 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Comments

Meg's position on high speed rail is very short-sited. Sure, canceling the project will help solve the deficit in the short term, but building the system will have long term effects, such as helping the environment and creating jobs, that more than make up for the immediate costs.

Meg's UNofficial site:
http://megwhitman.biz

Posted by Lamar Holst on Jul. 13, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

Meg, just another NIMBY from Atherton. Palo Alto and San Mateo stopped Bart from circling the Bay in the 60's - now they're trying the same with high speed rail.

High speed rail will create jobs, improve the environment and make California competitive with the rest of the industrialized world.

Typical short-sighted CEO attitude focused on reducing costs at the expense of long-term benefits.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

There has only been a small amount of the proposed $47 Billion allocated to this project ($2.25B). I would like to see the entire proposed budget allocated before I would want the program to proceed. I agree with Meg's initial claim that the state doesn't have the budget to pay for this.

The author and posters have a good point that it would be great to have the opportunity to ride HSR between SF and LA and I agree that it would create jobs but at what cost?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 9:40 am

She really does not know the long term effects of having mass transit all over California. Especially with the congestion in LA, it would creates thousands of jobs all over the state and create less commuter time. Living in Southern California, rush hour starts at 7:00AM and goes to 11:00AM to get to west LA. The 405 gets jammed beginning at 1:00PM and can go all the way till 9:00PM. The reason being there is NO OTHER WAY TO GET TO LA. This train would make it MUCH easier for drivers and the commute and would make this state more efficient than the current situation. Her background as a businesswoman does not reflect how she would cure the problems of this state from her political stance.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 10:43 am

Whitman is a disaster, pure and simple.
Major projects such as HSR get funded from an array of sources, and funding is ongoing. Thanks to Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi, California has strong representation on key transportations commitees, thus ensuring the ongoing flow of federal funding for this vital project.
We need jobs, and we need sustainable transportation. HSR provides both. Whitman will provide neither.

Posted by Mr. Transportation Planner on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 11:13 am

I think it's wise to take a step back considering the criticism of the Leglislative Analyst's office, the State Auditor and now the Berkeley Transportation group.

Let's look at the reality if the state would benefit from this project perhaps without the ridership to support it or the funds to build it. We're not doing so good on our $3 billion a year prediction coming from the feds and the political atmosphere in DC is not good with the Congress.

Regarding job creation, it would be years before any construction jobs would be available so perhaps the unions are being sold a bill of goods particularly if the Chinese take over the operating partner.

Looking at it from a business prospective it would be a good thing for all citizens in California, for someone to have an objective look. The situation is a far cry from what people thought they were voting for.

Posted by Fresh look welcomed on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 12:09 pm

NO FRESH..Nimby backed report for HSR is needed..Millions of people will use this system for decades to come..get your The next 4 quaters wall street mindset
off this much needed system that once built will put all these future (3oyear) it wont work reports to shame

Posted by TheTRUTH on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

If you don't follow tech, you'd never know about this. Skype purchased by Meg for $2.6 Billion in 2005 was a bad and embarrassing decision.

http://www.infoworld.com/t/networking/are-ebay-and-skype-good-fit-073

Posted by Berlin on Jul. 16, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

Trains are great. But the proponents of the project said it would cost about $40 Billion, and the bond issue only authorized them to borrow $10B. That says the other $30B has to come from some other programs, and whether that's from the State of California (which it should be) or the Feds, those programs would also be creating jobs and doing something hopefully useful.

Would you rather have that shiny new train track, or new school buildings? Better equipment in our hospitals? More teachers in our universities or elementary schools? That water project that's supposed to keep Sacramento from washing away in a flood? Sure, if we can take the money out of the Iraq war or prison construction, trains would be better. But you know that that's not how it works.

If we can take the money out of unemployment benefits, because we're paying people to work on the railroad instead of to sit at home sending out resumes to businesses that aren't hiring people, yeah, that might be fiscally responsible. But you could say the same thing about spending that money hiring those people to teach school, and we'd get better-educated kids instead of train tracks, and that's a better investment for the long term.

Posted by Bill Stewart on Jul. 17, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

If I want to go down to LA, right now I have 2 options:

1. Drive 6-7 hours, if traffic is good, wracking my nerves looking out for cops all along the way.

2. Wake up at some ungodly hour, drive to the airport to get there 1.5 hrs before my flight, endure the ridiculous security procedures (shoes off, strangers going through my bags), sit packed like sardines for an hour and a half, pick up luggage (if it's not lost), and make my way out. Total time: At least 4 hours, unless there are delays.

With HSR, I have the option of traveling like people in Europe travel. I could make the trip in less than three hours, for probably less cost than either driving or flying.

Of course when you have a private jet like eMeg, you don't have to think about these things.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 21, 2010 @ 11:43 am