High Speed Rail rolls over GOP job killers

Republican legislators Jim Patterson and Andy Vidak did their best this week to try and kill 1,582 critically-needed jobs in the San Joaquin Valley.

Luckily, they failed.

Patterson, the GOP assemblyman from Fresno, and Vidak, the Republican representative from Hanford in the state Senate, came from different angles to try and take out the California High Speed Rail project that has delivered a financially-stimulating jolt to their economically-challenged region.

On Monday, the Assembly Committee on Transportation shut down Patterson on a 4-9-1 vote. His Assembly Bill 65 sought to dry-up a funding mechanism that is helping to pay off the $9.98 billion in Proposition 1A general-obligation bonds that California voters approved in 2008 to build High Speed Rail.

The next day, the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing turned back a Vidak measure that sought to overturn the will of the people on the Proposition 1A vote and stop the issuance of HSR bonds. The committee said no thanks, by a 4-6 margin.

Maybe Patterson and Vidak haven’t noticed, but construction workers in their districts for the past two years have been pounding out the initial 119-mile segment of the project. Ultimately, the High Speed Rail system will provide California commuters with a rail alternative to complement the state’s car and air travel.

So far, High Speed Rail construction has meant a direct $878-million economic investment in Vidak’s district and $181 million in Patterson’s.

Voters in their districts should remember at election time that these two lawmakers tried to pull the plug on the 1,582 people now working on the system in the Valley and the tens of thousands more jobs that that will be created when the system takes shape up and down California.

Meanwhile, the Fresno Bee reported this week that Sunset Magazine put the city on its list of the top 20 “game-changing places to live” in the West. One big reason for Fresno’s listing: the game-changing nature of High Speed Rail.

“Once the nation’s first bullet train links it to Silicon Valley via high-speed rail, watch out,” the Bee quoted from the magazine article.

And, there is more on the High Speed Rail momentum front.

The Silicon Valley Business Journal recently published a story on the president of the American branch of Deutsche Bahn, the German rail company that scored the winning bid to operate our High Speed Rail system, and his realistic view of what it will take to make it a success.

Carsten Puls, the president of DB Engineering & Consulting USA, said in the interview that the company faces a big challenge in getting Californians to re-examine their affinity for the car culture. The way to do that, he said, is to make the system fast, convenient, and fun.

Make the transportation experience enjoyable. Make it useful. Make it easy to use.

“Then,” Puls said, “it will bring benefits to the region.”

For the latest updates on construction progress, check the Build High Speed Rail website at https://buildhsr.com/

                                                         --Andy Furillo  

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