Report cites benefits of bullet train

TransForm releases report showing merits of California's high-speed rail projectTransForm releases report showing merits of California's high-speed rail projectA California nonprofit has released a report on the merits of high-speed rail along with recommendations on ways to move forward with the project.

The report, "Moving Ahead with High Speed Rail" was released by TransForm, an Oakland-based nonprofit dedicated to improving transportation in the Bay Area and statewide.

With the announcement in April of projected costs reduced to $68.4 million, TransForm stated that it now rescinded its previous criticism of the 520-mile bullet train system.

"The project is now designed to serve as the backbone of a statewide rail network, rather than an isolated system," the report stated. "It supports early upgrades to Caltrain and Metrolink as well as lines now used by Amtrak and ACE, allowing those systems to go faster and attract more riders. Millions of Californians will benefit from these first investments."

The organization also lauded reduced community impacts with the newly released business plan by narrowing the width of the corridor along with speed of travel, the creation of 100,000 new jobs during construction and economic development around rail stations.

Central Valley cities like Fresno, Bakersfield and Merced have tremendous opportunities to strengthen their downtowns if they plan wisely with transportation in mind, the report stated.

The report identifies costs and several funding sources to spur the project, including California's upcoming cap and trade rule on emissions that could potentially raise $43 billion by 2020.

The report also urges the California Legislature to support the appropriation of the first round of Prop 1A bonds, approved by voters in 2008, ensure that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has appropriate staff levels to manage the project and direct adequate cap and trade revenues to Central Valley cities where rail stations will be sited early on.

Lastly, the report recommends that the authority should establish an environmental justice advisory committee to review proposed mitigations, focus strongly on the needs of disadvantaged communities interrupted by the rail and maintain a strong land-use planning program as part of the project.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority expects to complete the first 130-mile segment of the bullet train from Fresno to Bakersfield by the end of 2017 while service would commence the following year.

High-speed rail service stretching 300 miles from Merced to the San Fernando Valley is expected to begin by 2022 while the Bay Area would be reached by 2027.

The $3.3 billion in federal funds currently committed to the project must be spent by September 30, 2017 while another $2.7 billion in bond funds is waiting on approval by the Legislature.