OP-ED: Being Smarter About High-Speed Rail

By Laura Friedman

There are few phrases in California politics that invoke as much passion as the words “high-speed rail.” The ambitious transportation infrastructure project seeking to move passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes, and ultimately connect San Diego to Sacramento, has become a centerpiece of public debate.

The project has drawn controversy for its significant cost overruns while also inspiring recognition of our real need for viable mass transit in our state. Although the debate around high-speed rail is ongoing in the Capitol, I’d like to take a moment to explore the realities of the project and ask a question – can we use transit dollars in a smarter way?

California’s high-speed rail project was born in 1996 when the legislature formed the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA). Nearly a decade later, in 2008, California voters passed Proposition 1A that approved the issuance of $9 billion in bonds for the initial funding of the project.