Bullet train promises fast relief

first_imgHigh-speed trains connecting Northern and Southern California have been in the talking-about phase for, it seems, my entire life. But with congestion getting worse (does it ever get better?) and traffic jams now common occurrences in the middle of the state’s vast nowhere, the talk has turned serious. Rights-of-way are being established, and the preliminary environmental review is under way. Throughout the next few weeks, Los Angeles is getting its first glimpse of the bullet-train plan in a series of community meetings in places close to proposed stations, such as Glendale on April 4 (Burbank station) and Sylmar (which will be getting its own station) on April 10. I caught up with the show at the Friendship Auditorium in Griffith Park on Wednesday night. Dan Templis, a project manager with the engineering firm Hatch Mott MacDonald, which is working on the L.A.-to-Palmdale stretch, outlined the plan with the help of a mostly animated DVD showing the sleek and futuristic train zipping down the 99 Freeway, through tunnels in the hills of Central California and into the mega train stations of Tomorrowland. The catch, of course, is cash. Building the train requires an investment of $40 billion, at least. That’s the equivalent of $1,000 per person for the 40 million people expected to live in California in a few short years. That’s also about half of what the governor proposed for fixing all state infrastructure. It’s a whole lot of money for a state that doesn’t much use the trains it’s got already. We’ll find out soon if the public is ready for a bullet train. The first of the bonds of the project – $10 billion – is expected to be on the November 2008 ballot. It’s considered seed money. And it’s a steep price for something that won’t do us much good for another 13 years. But imagine what that could be like. I have been traveling the Southern California-Bay Area section of Interstate 5 for nearly 30 years, ever since as a kid I shuttled between my San Diego mom and San Francisco dad. The trips became even more regular during my college years, when I missed home and warm weather. I still regularly travel the route to visit family and friends who stubbornly refuse to move south. All the while, the drive has been getting incrementally worse. I noticed, but didn’t really care. Not until the fateful Thanksgiving weekend in 2002, when I got stuck in a 200-mile traffic jam between Los Banos and the Grapevine. What used to be a fairly pleasant trip is now an ordeal, and costly, too. I’ll never forget the night my niece was diagnosed with leukemia. I jumped into my car at 10 p.m. and headed for Stanford Children’s Hospital, planning to set the cruise at 90 mph for an easy, late-night drive. Instead, I got a harrowing, truck-congested, windblown nightmare of a long, slow and dangerous drive. Like the 405, traffic through the Central Valley is a 24/7 kind of thing. That was 19 months ago. My niece beat her cancer, but Interstate 5 probably never will beat its affliction. And that realization makes me wonder whether $40 billion is really all that much. Mariel Garza is a columnist and editorial writer for the Los Angeles Daily News. Write to her by e-mail at mariel.garza@dailynews.com. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! TWO and a half hours. It’s the amount of time it takes to watch a Scorsese movie. It’s the length one must sit still for a haircut and color. It’s the time it should take to drive from Los Angeles to San Diego, but usually doesn’t. It also used to be the time – way back in the pre-Sept. 11 era – that it took to step into LAX, get on a plane and end up in San Francisco, ready for some high times in North Beach. Ah, those were the days. That 21/2 hours travel time from Union Station to downtown San Francisco might be a possibility once again – or at least that’s the sales pitch for the proposed Fly California bullet train. With a little luck, and a whole lot of love from voters next year, the train will be running regular L.A.-S.F. routes starting in 2020. That short travel time is what the High Speed Rail Authority hopes will sell the state on the most expensive public-works project in U.S. history – a 700-mile system of super-fast electric trains (125 mph in the city; 220 mph in the open country) from San Diego to the Bay Area and Sacramento. Watch out, cow! last_img read more