Politics and Issues
Club supports Proposition 1A to build high-speed railOctober 2008
By Stuart Cohen, Executive Director,
Sierra Club supports Proposition 1A, which would provide $9.95 billion dollars to begin the development of the 800-mile High-Speed Rail system and to make improvements to existing rail networks. Building High-Speed Rail will promote sustainable land use, significantly reduce global warming pollution, and get commuters off congested roads and out of crowded airports. While it is an extremely expensive project, adding the same capacity by expanding highways and airports would cost at least twice as much.
The fully completed high-speed train system would run between San Diego and Sacramento, with connections to the Bay Area. Trains would run at speeds of over 220 miles per hour, zipping from San Francisco's Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles' Union Station in two and a half hours.
High-Speed Rail will help to achieve the State's greenhouse gas reduction goals by replacing car and airplane trips with rail trips. By 2030, when the whole system is in place, rail travel is anticipated to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions by up to 12 billion pounds of CO2 per year.
Over the past four months, Sierra Club and other organizations have worked to put important safeguards into the original bond measure, including protections for the Grasslands Ecological Area, allowing bond funds to be spent on improvements in the Altamont corridor connecting the Bay Area to Modesto and Stockton, and strong financial accountability provisions. At their September 2008 meeting, the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board approved a goal of using 100% renewable, carbon-free electricity to run the system.One of the most daunting challenges is the cost of the system— especially with our state budget in crisis. Although the price tag is very steep (over $30 billion to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles through the Central Valley), it pales in comparison to the cost of new highway and airport expansions. Caltrans estimates, for example, that it would cost $6 billion to widen Highway 99 alone from four lanes to six. Widening just this one highway to eight lanes, now being discussed, is estimated to cost at least $20 billion.
It is time to develop a zero-emission high-speed train system that propels California into the 21st century.
Vote YES on Prop. 1A.
CALPIRG has been organizing educational forums throughout the state on the environmental, economic, and quality of life benefits of high-speed rail. This election day, Prop 1A on the statewide ballot would authorize $9.95 billion in bond funds to start laying the tracks for a high-speed train connecting northern and southern California.