Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has placed his support behind a costly high-speed rail system in California.
Schwarzenegger told NBC11 he wants California to lead the way in transporting commuters across the state at near-record speeds while reducing global warming at the same time....
On the very spot where the Transcontinental Railroad was established nearly 140 years ago, Schwarzenegger told Luery that a less-than-three-hour trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles represents the type of progress that can take place in the Golden State.
"I think we need high speed rail," Schwarzenegger said. "If you think right now our trains in America are running the same speed as 100 years ago. That's not progress. I think we can do much better than that."
Arnold has been playing footsie with high speed rail for a while now. He tried to gut the funding for the Authority last year, only to then publish an op-ed in the Fresno Bee expressing support for the project. His support appeared to be dependent on HSR providing public-private partnerships, which AB 3034 would help produce.
His approval rating has been dropping, but he still remains the dominant political figure in the state, and his support for Prop 1 is certainly more welcome than opposition. Whether Arnold will campaign for Prop 1 around the state remains to be seen, and it would certainly do much to both prove the depth of his commitment to the project and to build a stronger consensus for Prop 1 across party lines.
Of course, Arnold's longtime Republican rival and dedicated train hater Tom McClintock was quick to attack high speed rail:
"It just doesn't pencil out," said state Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks. "It's $40 billion just in construction. That's more than $1,000 for every man, woman and child in this state -- all for a train that will go from L.A. to San Francisco in about two hours longer than it takes to fly there."
McClintock called the system a boondoggle and said that the money would be better spent improving California's highways.
$1,000, perhaps, but that is spread out over 30 years - which is $33 a year, or 64¢ per week. I might be able to dig that out of my couch cushions. In the life of the HSR project most Californians will recognize well beyond $1000 in savings at the pump and at the ticket counter.
It's also no surprise McClintock raises the old "airplanes are faster" claim. In fact, if you include travel time to the airport, and the wait in the terminal (including security) a flight from LA to SF will take roughly the same amount of time as the high speed train - just over two and a half hours. What's more, HSR offers a far more convenient form of travel - business travelers can conduct cell phone conversations, perhaps use WiFi or even videoconferencing, instead of being crammed into a plane where cell phones and WiFi are verboten.
McClintock also shows his total ignorance of the airline crisis which will make air travel within this state more expensive and less frequent. For most Californians, HSR and feeder rail lines will become the primary method they use to get around the state.
Instead McClintock wants to shackle Californians to soaring oil prices. I mean really, $40 billion in highway expansion? Not only will that not buy you very many new freeway lanes, but it would be doubling down on California's reliance on oil. The McClintock solution to high gas prices simply doesn't exist - he thinks we should just pay it and continue driving as if everything's normal.
Thankfully not all Republicans agree - Curt Pringle, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and others recognize the value of HSR. With their support voters will too.