The Transit Advantage

Why not run the high-speed rail corridor through Oakland?

With all the statewide and national controversy over high-speed rail (HSR) – from and to where, for how much, built by whom and when – now seems as good a time as any to muse about proposed routes.

Residents on the Peninsula and in the city of Burlingame don’t want HSR coming through their neighborhoods. They don’t want the noise or traffic disruption to their communities. In fact, several organized groups are trying to derail HSR on the Peninsula.

It’s time for decision makers in Oakland, the East Bay, as well as state and national politicians to jump into the discussion and propose an alternative route. I say why not run through Oakland? The city prides itself on moving goods and ideas, has a skilled and diverse workforce, and is a major transit hub with international reach.

The total cost of the planned, first phase of California’s HSR is estimated at $43 billion, with almost $9 billion coming from the sale of bonds as approved by California voters in 2008 and a large chunk coming from federal funds (not everyone is happy about that, including some minority groups).

In an effort to grab more funds, Gov. Schwarzenegger, Senators Feinstein and Pelosi, Congresswoman Lee and a host of other state lawmakers have written a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that makes the case for California to acquire portions of the high-speed rail dollars originally slated for Wisconsin and Ohio; the two states in which Republican governors promised to rescind their HSR money.

Meanwhile, as Congresswoman Lee (D-CA) said in a news release back in January 2010: “The state of California has put a lot of time, effort and planning into this statewide high-speed rail system. Now is the time to upgrade our passenger rail systems. This project will help alleviate traffic, help our environment, strengthen our local governments and provide much needed jobs to the people of California.

“This groundbreaking $8 billion investment will create or save tens of thousands of jobs in California and across the country. I applaud the administration for this bold step to invest in the infrastructure of our country.”