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Close to Home: PD editorial on high-speed rail was 'misguided'

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and his wife Anne Brown sit on board a high speed rail leaving from the Beijing South train station in Beijing, China, Thursday, April 11, 2013. Brown highlighted his state's interest in infrastructure by traveling on China's high-speed rail system, which is the longest in the world. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Your recent editorial ("Time to put the brakes on high-speed rail," Wednesday) could not have been more misguided and misleading. Conveniently, you fail to describe the transformative effects of the California high-speed rail project, not just on the transportation infrastructure but on the future of the entire state.

You question Gov. Jerry Brown's "defense" of high-speed rail and suggest that the program hasn't kept "pace with reality." But the reality is that projects like high-speed rail — the largest infrastructure undertaking in the nation — take time and commitment, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority is moving forward in diligent and deliberate fashion to carry out the will of the voters.

The reality also is that California must develop cleaner, more efficient means of moving people around the state in order to accommodate record population growth in the coming years. Brown recognized this and embraced the project, which voters approved in 2008 with the passage of Proposition 1A.

But the governor's backing was not unconditional. After announcing his support in August 2011, he immediately appointed new board members and brought in a new chief executive to turn the project around. Under CEO Jeff Morales the authority has solidified the direction of the project, hired seasoned experts and transportation engineers and formed crucial partnerships with stakeholders to help develop a statewide modernization plan that will invest billions of dollars in local and regional rail lines.

We produced a 2012 business plan, with improved ridership and cost estimates, and adopted a "blended approach" to help bring down the cost of the project in the Bay Area and Southern California, while still meeting the requirements of Proposition 1A. The 2011 funding plan, which Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled were out of compliance with Proposition 1A, had already been revised in the 2012 business plan. The 2012 business plan is the one the state Legislature accepted and used in appropriating funds for the project in July 2012.

We continue to move this project forward in the way California voters envisioned. Your editorial states that the $1 billion contract for the first segment of the project is on hold as a result of a ruling earlier this month by the Surface Transit Board. That is not true. The board's ruling does not affect the contract and or work now underway in the Central Valley.

It is important to note that the authority will complete the environmental review of each project section prior to construction commencing — an effort the authority is in the final stages of completing.

We understand that high-speed rail is a major undertaking and with this come questions and challenges. They are part of the business of building an historic project of this magnitude.

<i>Ben Tripousis is Northern California regional director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.</i>


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