Opinion: Why California needs high-speed rail

By Lynn Schenk

Vice Chair, Board of Directors

California High-Speed Rail Authority

In a state that prides itself on innovative and unique problem solving, high-speed rail is the solution to many of our state’s current and future problems.

High-speed rail is poised to bring tens of thousands of good, family-supporting jobs to our state — jobs not just to build the trains and the train line, but also jobs to operate and maintain it. Building just the first phase of the project — from Los Angeles to San Francisco — will mean nearly 100,000 jobs during peak construction.

Why else do Californians support high-speed rail? It’ll improve air quality, lessen congestion on our roads and support transportation needs for our state’s rapid population growth.

The system will run 100 percent on electricity, which means that electricity can be produced from clean sources like wind, solar and more, improving our state’s air quality year after year.

Some say why not widen our roads and build more airports? Won’t that be cheaper?

Building more roads is an option, but also consider that a freeway requires significantly more land than we propose for high-speed rail — which will be 120 feet or less. What’s more, the cost of building a high-speed rail system is still a cheaper and better alternative to widening freeways throughout the state and building more airports. Over the next two decades, California’s high-speed train will alleviate the need to spend more than $100 billion to build 3,000 miles of new freeway, five airport runways and 90 departure gates.

It is entirely appropriate that no project of this scope is going to be free of debate, some things are indisputable. We know that California is growing. We expect about 50 million people in this state by 2035. Those people — and the goods and services they need —will have to move around our state.

Without question, California’s high-speed rail system is a job creator. It will improve our environment and get Californian’s where they need to go. In the end, it is a safe, clean, fast and affordable way to travel that improves our economy and quality of life.

Lynn Schenk of La Jolla is an attorney and senior corporate advisor. She has served on the Authority Board since 2003 and is currently Vice Chair of the Board. She served as chief of staff to California Gov. Gray Davis from 1999 to 2003. In 1992, Schenk became the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives to represent the San Diego area. As a member of the 103rd Congress, Congresswoman Schenk sat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its subcommittees on Telecommunications and Finance, and Transportation and Hazardous Materials.