August 15, 2012

Regarding George F. Will’s Aug. 8 op-ed column, “A Golden State train wreck”:

When he was governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger put high-speed rail before the voters, and the project has strong support from a bipartisan group of mayors representing five of California’s largest cities. Business groups across the state, including the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Orange County Business Council, ardently advocate for it.

Does Mr. Will have a better idea about how California can meet the mobility needs of the estimated 20 million new citizens who will call the state home over the next several decades? New freeways and airports? What would those cost?

Some people spout opinions and some people build. In California, we’re facing the future — and we’re building.

Dan Richard, Sacramento

The writer is chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

In quoting California state Sen. Joe Simitian’s claim that the initial operating segment (IOS) of the proposed bullet train wouldn’t be high-speed, George F. Will got it mostly wrong. The Central Valley IOS will allow for interim Amtrak service at 125 mph — much less than the 220 mph the train will reach once the project is completed but far faster than currently possible.

As to assumptions of “$40 per gallon of gasoline”: The most recent business plan assumes a $6.11 price per gallon of gasoline in 2030; given recent trends, this is surely a realistic projection. Since California is projected to add the equivalent of the current population of the state of New York over the next 30 to 40 years, you get a surefire recipe for a boom in travel. A mid-level projection of just over 21 million passengers in these conditions isn’t unreasonable.

Sean Jeans-Gail, Washington

The writer is vice president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

Continue reading