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Fresno, April 20th - High-speed rail supporters gathered outside of Fresno's Amtrak station to call on the Department of Transportation to invest in California's high-speed rail line all the way up to Merced and all the way don to Bakersfield.
New funds became available when Florida leaders rejected more than $2 billion in high-speed rail funds in February. Twenty-four states have applied for the money.
“We’re here today to tell the U.S. Department of Transportation: Invest in high-speed rail right here in the Central Valley of California. We’re ready, we want it, and Californians will invest in the train with you,” said Jaafar Rizvi, the Transportation Associate for CALPIRG.
The event also included Tom Richards, the Chair and CEO of the Penstar Group and a Board member of the High-Speed Rail Authority, John Hernandez, Executive Director of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Lee Ann Eager, COO of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation, and Sarah Moffat, Field Representative for Sen. Feinstein.
The state has applied for as much money as they can get from the rejected Florida funds. $1.44 billion would be enough to fully fund the rail from Merced to Bakersfield and build stations in each location. The High-Speed Rail Authority has projected that 64,000 jobs could be created if California was awarded the full amount that Florida initially rejected. A decision is expected by the month’s end.
“High-speed rail is the largest infrastructure project that any of us in California will see in our lifetime…with high unemployment throughout the Central Valley, we are in desperate need of a game changer – and the High Speed Rail is certainly that,” said Lee Ann Eager of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation.
“It is now clear that California will lead the way in demonstrating the viability of high-speed rail to the rest of the country,” said Senators Feinstein and Boxer in a joint letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the ultimate voice on where the money goes.
Initial construction is set to begin in 2012. The full first-phase would connect San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim, and will cost $43 billion. The project is to be funded by a combination of federal grants, state bond sales, and public-private partnerships.
“As demands for new transportation increase with our growing population, high-speed rail will not only mean less traffic and unhealthy pollution, it is also projected to be cheaper than the airport and highway expansions we’d need without it,” concluded Rizvi. “To those who say we can’t afford high-speed rail, I say we can’t afford not to build high-speed rail.”
CALPIRG Education Fund has released several reports on transportation policy and high-speed rail over the last few years, including:
• Do Roads Pay for Themselves? Setting the Record Straight on Transportation Funding;
• Next Stop: California. Benefits of High-Speed Rail Around the World and What's in Store for California; and
• The Right Track: Building a 21st Century High-Speed Rail System for America
The reports can be found at www.calpirg.org/report
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