My interview on Monday night’s City Visions program on KALW radio with Dan Richard, chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority, covered a lot of ground on the status and future of the proposed system. You can listen to the audio here. Some key takeaways from my perspective:
- A federal infrastructure spending bill next year with a new president will be critical to shoring up the existing system’s finances and allowing it to get fully built out by 2029. The current federal contribution is historically meager, compared to how much the state is contributing in tax dollars.
- The Authority will need the San Jose to Fresno section to get up and running as soon as possible to demonstrate a revenue-making, operable segment, which will lay the political foundation for more support for the system.
- The Authority and other local leaders are going to need more tools to ensure that the system does not lead to more sprawl around the stations and instead encourages more station-oriented development. Those tools could involve urban growth boundaries coupled with more funding for infill areas.
This will be a very long-term project for the state, but it’s the first high speed rail system under construction in the United States. While a fully built out train is decades away, perhaps with a big federal push next year we’ll see the first section operating soon between Silicon Valley and Fresno. That development would be transformative for the Central Valley. Overall, it’s a vital infrastructure project for the state’s residents to keep tabs on.