A new environmental impact report states that a high-speed rail linking California’s major cities would be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than building out highways and airports.
According to the 2,000-page document released Jan. 27 by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), as many as 68 million riders would use high-speed trains by 2020, significantly reducing congested freeways, improving air quality and boosting the state’s economy.
The report compares the 700-mile network option with two other scenarios. Under the first scenario, the state would only complete or build already approved transportation projects. The second one would opt for building more highways and airport gates at a cost of nearly $82 billion.
“The basic conclusion of this report is that the high-speed train is the best solution for California’s intercity travel needs,” CHSRA Executive Director Mehdi Morshed stated in a Los Angeles Times article.
The network would eventually link San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego with trains reaching speeds up to 220 mph. At an estimated cost as high as $37 billion, the system is half as expensive as adding 2,970 miles of new highway lanes, nearly 60 airport gates and five runways.
However, the cost of the project has risen since 1999, when the high-speed rail authority estimated the bullet-train network at $25 billion.
The first leg of the route from Los Angeles to San Francisco could be funded through a $9.95 billion bond on the November ballot. But considering the state’s budget deficit, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed to postpone the bond measure until 2006.