According to the LA Times, an internal report sent to the California High-Speed Rail Authority by MetroLink outlined that ridership between Burbank and Anaheim would increase under a new plan that would shift up to $5.5 billion in funds from the Central Valley to Southern California.
Metrolink also outlined in the report the potential economic and environmental benefits of diverting the funds, such as relieving freeway congestion and cutting down on emissions in one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the country.
The High Speed Rail Authority has over $20.5 billion in funding for the bullet train project in the Central Valley, but as construction delays, technical mishaps and problems with poor management have increased many have called for the funds to be diverted to areas that would be better served by improvements in public transportation. In their report, MetroLink projected that,if given the funds, the current number of passengers on the Burbank to Anaheim line, 1.8 million, would nearly double by 2024 due to increased schedules and faster trains.
The proposed diversion of funds has drawn criticism from those in the Central Valley, who say that a diversion of funds would leave the original Central Valley line half-completed, with cities torn apart with unfinished projects and nothing to show for the over $15 billion in funding. There’s also a huge concern among environmentalists that leaving the original Central Valley line unfinished will lead to continued use of diesel trains, which decrease the air quality and contribute to higher rates of asthma.
We reached out to the Mayors and reps of Fresno, Merced and Bakersfield, as well as Assemblymember Jim Patterson. They were unable to join us for interview.
We also reached out to the California High Speed Rail Authority, who did not get back to us in time for the interview.
And we reached out to Metrolink. They declined our request for an interview, but sent us this statement:
“Metrolink supports the state’s vision for high speed rail using a blended system to deliver projects and is appreciative of state officials keeping Metrolink’s funding needs in mind.
The California High Speed Rail Authority requested information from Metrolink in order to perform a side-by-side look at the Central Valley, the Bay Area, and Southern California. In response, Metrolink provided information regarding potential investments in Southern California that would benefit future High-Speed Rail deployment. Those investments and their present-day and future benefits are provided in the report. SCORE, along with maintenance and rehabilitation projects are included in our response.”
Ralph Vartabedian, national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times who covers the high-speed rail project, who has been following the story; he tweets @RVartabedian
Ara Najarian, Mayor of Glendale; a member of the Metro board and vice chair of the Metrolink board