Not to be a grumpy bear on this -- I know there's a lot of people that want to see the trains up and running -- but I think the odds of the system running in a decade are long. First, there's the little issue of coming up with the $33 billion that the California High-Speed Rail Authority says the project will cost (and some people say that's a low-ball estimate). The bond passed by California voters earlier this month was only for $9.95 billion.
"Some people say" is pretty poor journalism, first of all - those "some people" are the thoroughly discredited Reason Foundation and the Howard Jarvis Association.
Second, if you're going to base skepticism over project delivery on funding, shouldn't you mention the John Kerry HSR funding proposal? Or Obama's $500 billion economic stimulus? Funding isn't certain but it sure looks likely. Skepticism is fine, but readers are still owed informed and complete reporting. He continues:
And then there's this: Look at how long it takes just to build a few miles of light rail. Take, for example, the Expo Line, which is planned to run from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, a distance of some 15 miles. Construction began in 2006 and the first 8.6 miles may be done by 2010, with the remainder by 2015. That's nine years to build 15 miles of light rail, versus a decade to build 400-plus miles of 220 mph rail.
This claim doesn't seem to reflect some factors about the high speed rail project that separate it from something like the Expo Line. First, the Expo Line's phased construction is partly due to funding issues faced by the MTA. Measure R, combined with a federal stimulus, could accelerate the delivery of the final phase. Second, the Expo Line involves building entirely new tracks through an urban center. HSR doesn't. It will involve grade separations and new tracks, but those will come next to existing rail corridors. And the bulk of the route will be built outside urban areas.
More importantly, the 2018 date is not some random number. The California High Speed Rail Authority's 2008 Business Plan explains that it will take 8 years to complete final design and construction. The timetable laid out in that document uses 2012-2020 as the timeline, but Quentin Kopp has recently suggested that the Program Level EIR/EIS process and preliminary engineering could be complete by July 2010 - in which case, the 2018 target date is entirely appropriate.
Sure, the CHSRA might not make that target date. But the way Hymon reported this claim made it sound like 2018 was pie-in-the-sky boosterism, when in fact it's sourced and reasonable.
Do you really think high-speed rail can happen that quickly? Making big promises is a good way to get the public excited. It's also a good way to make them cynical when those promises fail to materialize.
The same is true of the media, which frequently makes readers and citizens cynical about government programs or passenger rail projects by casting them in an unfair light. The Metro Gold Line Extension is being delivered on-time and on-budget even though it involves a tunnel under East LA. Seattle's Central Link light rail project is going to be delivered on-time and on-budget even though it too involves a significant tunnel (under Beacon Hill) and creating a light rail ROW in the middle of a busy urban street (Martin Luther King Way).
Even on a blog, I'd prefer that members of the media focus on reporting the facts in a complete and fair manner, instead of trying to push one's own skepticism.