“DON’T RAILROAD US!” said the little hand-painted wood sign by the street. It stares stubbornly at me, as my car rounds a corner of my Shadow Hills neighborhood. There used to be a lot more of these signs shouting out in loose chorus lines along the suburban streets. But now, there’s something about the solitary, stalwart stance of this one sign that impresses me. It seems to have a soul. And I’m moved to respond to the passionate plea of our woody friend.
You might get your wish. The bullet train is struggling with ebbing public support and with a petition to divert its billions of dollars to fund water projects rather than a rail line, and it is struggling with changes morphing it from high-speed rail (HSR) into low-speed rail on many stretches of its route — to name just a few obstacles. Little physical evidence of progress has shown. There are growing doubts about financing from the state and federal government as well as private investors. Is there room for confidence, for hope, for faith in this infrastructure project of great magnitude?
We all know the money is there, don’t we? What is needed is universal acceptance and getting back to the fundamentals of the project.
How wonderful it is to ride the rails in Europe while sitting in a comfortable seat with generous leg room. Next year, my husband and I are looking forward to riding the Big Bullet in Japan. So much better than the time and drudgery and stress of airplane or car travel. Maybe some day, I’ll be magically transported in under three hours to my life-long friend’s doorstep in San Francisco. But personal comfort and expediency are only a part of a package of HSR benefits.
In our state, we need to alleviate the pressure on air and road infrastructure that can’t accommodate longterm population growth. The High-Speed Rail Authority has estimated its project would forestall the need to build 3,000 lane-miles of freeway, five airport runways and 90 departure gates, totalling $100 billion. Lest I rant, here’s a short list of HSR benefits: 10 times safer than driving a car; number of accidents on our freeways would decrease; fewer cars, fewer freeways; cut down on jet fuel; cleaner air; unite firms and suppliers; tourism; jobs; sense of cohesion to a sprawling state. The HSR can be selfsustaining. California is the perfect place for it!
I.A.S. – Shadow Hills