High-Speed Rail
Produced by Mike Sanford


When it comes to California's future rail service, imagine traveling like so many Europeans and Japanese -- cruising the length of California at over 200 miles an hour. And you don't even leave the ground. Many transportation experts see high-speed rail as the new California Gold Rush: the necessary people mover in an ever-burgeoning state.

To that end, a nine-member commission was appointed by the legislature in 1993 to develop a plan for a statewide intercity high-speed rail. Just think what it would be like to travel from Los Angeles to Sacramento in just over two hours -- or Fresno to San Francisco in little more than an hour.

The only other high-speed system in the country is Amtrak's Acela Express. It clips along the Northeast corridor between Washington D.C and Boston at 150-miles-an-hour. California's so-called "Bullet" train would cover the countryside at an even faster 200 miles an hour. And it would be bigger -- seven hundred miles of track linking Northern California to Southern California and the Central Valley -- something experts say is key to the state's environmental health.

Many claim that relieving freeway and airport congestion will increase productivity and help California stay competitive in a global economy. The Central Valley is already economically challenged by the sheer time it takes to travel from city to city. Rail and air travel can be sporadic and expensive, and business travelers need expediency. For example, to go from Sacramento to Bakersfield for a day, some business people actually fly to the Burbank Airport and drive an hour and a half north to the Southern Central Valley city.

Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall believes more businesspeople would be attracted to his city if there was a high speed train service. Hall, who attends all of the high-speed rail meetings, says a bullet train would also enhance other forms of transportation. And Ray Bishop, Kern County director of airports agrees. He says Southern California terminals will become too impacted to handle even their own passengers.

But you don't build the world's largest public works project overnight. A system like Japan's popular Shin Kan Sen -- only larger -- will take 20 years and cost an estimated $25 billion. Part of that cost will come from a $10 billion bond measure that goes to California voters in November 2004. With the state facing major budget cuts, some say it could be a tough sell.

But many say it's not a question of "if," Californians will be taking the fast track…but when.


Mehdi Morshed
Exec. Dir., CA State High-Speed Rail Authority

Ron Diridon
Member, CA State High-Speed Rail Authority Board

Harvey Hall
Mayor of Bakersfield

Ray Bishop
Kern County Director of Airports


The complete text of New Valley Episode 201 - Planes, Trains, and the Shipping News...


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