U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a meeting with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and local business leaders, today affirmed the Obama Administration's commitment to California high-speed rail and discussed how investments in high-speed rail are essential to keeping California's economy moving.
"High-speed rail is absolutely essential to California's economic future" said Secretary LaHood. "President Obama has challenged us to build an economy that works for everyone. Now is the time to connect people who need work with the work we need to do, beginning here in California.
Construction of California's 220 miles-per-hour high-speed rail system will begin in Fresno later this year, and, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, will create tens of thousands of jobs over the next five years in one of the regions hardest hit by the recession. The system will also spur thousands of new jobs at railway suppliers of all sizes.
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.
Today, California's highways are among the most congested in the nation, costing residents and businesses in Los Angeles and San Francisco alone nearly $13.5 billion in 2010. Los Angeles-to-San Francisco is the most delay-prone short-haul air market in the United States, with approximately one of every four flights late by at least an hour or more.
The stress on the state's infrastructure will become even more pronounced during the next 40 years, as its population will grow by more than 20 million people. Without constructing the high-speed rail system, the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimates that California 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.
"We need to invest in the Central Valley today for high-speed rail to come to Los Angeles and San Francisco tomorrow," 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 passenger rail system is one of several regional 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 access and improved reliability, speed, and frequency of existing service.