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California’s bullet train — reinventing the wheel?

by AirTalk®

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A rendering of what a high-speed rail train would look like traversing California's desert. California High Speed Rail Authority

California lawmakers gave the go ahead to the country’s first high speed rail line which will run through the Golden State — albeit by a tight 21-16 margin.

The first 130-mile stretch of line will run from Madera to Bakersfield. The completed project will take passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco and is expected to cost $68 billion.

Former Chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority, Tom Umberg, says with population of California hitting 50 million in the next twenty years, a high-speed rail is the best solution to transportation challenges.

“High-speed rail is the least expensive, most environmentally friendly way of dealing with that challenge. And California is ideally suited for high speed rail,” Umberg said.

Critics say the high speed rail program is a ‘train to nowhere’ wasting crucial funds that could be used to finance state schools.

Elizabeth Alexis, Co-Founder Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD), says she was initially for the proposal and voted for the bond in 2008 but now sees major problems with the project.

“This project has taken a 380-mile route between L.A. and San Francisco and ballooned it up an extra 100 miles. I mean the cost at this point is projected to be $200 for every round trip in the first 30 years. I mean, it’s very expensive,” Alexis said.

She sees the issue as not whether a train would be good or not but rather if this project is the one to deliver what is needed.

Even with these doubts from many previous supporters, Umberg sees this as a positive solution for the state.

“I believe that especially as transportation pressures become more acute here that it will become not just more popular but increasingly more necessary for us to have this alternative transportation system,” Umberg said.

Weigh In:

Would you use the bullet train? At a cost of 68 billion, do you think the money could be better spent elsewhere?


Tom Umberg, Board member and Former Chairman, California High Speed Rail Authority

Elizabeth Alexis, Co-Founder Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD)

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