(San Francisco, CA -- KALW) On a stop in Fresno, California today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pushed for high-speed rail in the state.
“This is about jobs," said LaHood. "High-speed rail in California is about helping to get the California economy moving again, to get unemployment down, to put friends and neighbors to work,” said LaHood. “And implementing high-speed rail in California will do that.”
Fresno is in the heart of California’s Central Valley, where construction on the controversial project is set to begin later this year. The section of the rail line between Fresno and Bakersfield is the only segment of the estimated $100 billion project with secured funding.
“Anytime you do big things, they are always going to be controversial,” said LaHood. “There will always be those who have their objections. Our job is to understand the concerns and work to mitigate those.”
LaHood also toured a Siemens light-rail car manufacturing plant, and was scheduled to meet with state legislators in Sacramento later today.
Below is the press release from the Department of Transportation:
U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Promotes Obama Administration Vision for High-Speed Rail in Meeting with Fresno Mayor Swearengin and Area Business Leaders
FRESNO, Calif. – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today promoted the Obama Administration's vision for high-speed rail in a meeting with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Sacramento area business leaders. Secretary LaHood stressed high-speed rail's potential to create new construction and manufacturing jobs while providing California with a transportation network that can support the world's ninth largest economy.
"High-speed rail is a game changer for U.S. transportation and is critical for a California economy built to last," said Secretary LaHood. "President Obama has called on us to rebuild America by putting people back to work making sure our country has the safest, fastest, most efficient ways to move people and products. Building a high-speed rail network, beginning here in California's Central Valley with American workers and American companies, is a great place to start."
Construction of California's 220 miles-per-hour high-speed rail system will begin in Fresno later this year and will, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, create tens of thousands of jobs over the next five years in a region hit especially hard by the recession. The state's high-speed rail project would connect Fresno and other communities in the Central Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles Basin, two of the country's largest metropolitan areas, with travel times under two hours.
Through a "Buy America" approach to construction, the Obama Administration is ensuring that high-speed rail projects are built with American-made products. In addition, 30 rail companies from around the world have pledged that if selected for high-speed rail contracts, they will hire American workers and expand their bases of operations in the United States.
The Central Valley is the fastest growing part of California, and one of the fastest growing regions in the country. By 2050, the region will double in size to more than 13 million people, making it more populated than Illinois, Pennsylvania or Ohio. Today, the Central Valley supports the fifth busiest intercity passenger corridor in the nation.
California is already home to six of the 10 most congested metropolitan areas and the busiest short-haul air market in the nation. The stress on the state's infrastructure will become even more pronounced during the next 40 years, as the state's population is estimated to grow by more than 20 million people. Without constructing the high-speed rail system, the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimates the state would need to invest $171 billion to acquire the equivalent level of capacity—2,300 miles of new highways, 115 new airport gates, and four new airport runways.
"Our highways and airports simply can't handle the growth," said Secretary LaHood. "At this make or break moment, America needs a transportation jobs bill that includes resources to continue building a national high-speed rail network."
California's intercity passenger rail system is one of several regional rail networks planned across the United States. To date, the U.S. Department of Transportation has invested $10.1 billion to put American communities on track toward new and expanded rail service with improved reliability, speed, and frequency of existing service.