Commentary: Upgrade Rail Now for High-Speed Later

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, October 5, 2007

Sure, I’d like to ride a 200 mile an hour bullet train that would transport me from Sacramento to Los Angeles in under three hours. But for now I’d be satisfied with a reliable hour and a half ride to San Francisco on a conventional train.

For California lawmakers mulling the wisdom of putting a $10 billion dollar high speed rail bond on next year’s ballot, my advice is: hold off. Invest in conventional rail instead. The cost is lower and the benefits would come much sooner. For example, the Capitol Corridor train that runs between Sacramento, Oakland and San Jose is waiting on four big construction projects that would help speed service and reduce bottle necks. Those projects are ready to go now. They would cost a few million, not billions, and the public would see benefits in a matter or months, not decades.

Those who question why California can’t have sleek fast modern high speed trains like those in Europe and Japan need to understand: those high speed networks were built on top of efficient successful conventional rail systems. A smart investment in California’s conventional rail today, builds a solid foundation for high speed in the future.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.