Monday, March 17, 2008

Legislators to Tour European High Speed Rail Systems

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

The California legislature takes its spring break this week, and 12 of them are going to Spain and Japan to learn more about successful high speed rail systems:

Eight California lawmakers are traveling overseas this week to study high-speed rail systems and other matters as the Legislature takes an 11-day spring break.

Assembly members Charles Calderon, D-City of Industry; Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and Roger Niello, R-Sacramento, are on a trip to Spain sponsored by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy.

Sen. Jim Battin, R-Palm Desert, and Assembly members Anthony Adams, R-Monrovia; Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City; and Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, are part of a delegation visiting Japan.

One reason for the trips is to study the development of high-speed rail systems in both countries. A measure on the November ballot would authorize California to sell nearly $10 billion in bonds to help pay for a 700-mile high-speed rail system linking the state's largest cities.

I post this because it reminds me of last year's spring break trip, where Fiona Ma was aboard the record-setting TGV run - the train topped out at 574 kmh (357 mph).

It's worth noting that Spain's AVE trains were promoted by both the right and the left. Originally begun as a kind of vanity project by the PSOE (Spanish Socialists) to connect Madrid to the 1992 World's Fair in Sevilla, the line turned out to be extremely popular and profitable. PSOE lost the 1996 elections, but their right-wing successors, the Partido Popular, embarked on a major expansion of the system, including lines to Barcelona, Valladolid, Malaga, and a planned line to Valencia. PSOE is back in power in Spain and has completed these plans and announced further ambitions to connect to the Basque Country and to the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.

If Spain's bitter political rivals can agree on the value of HSR, surely California Republicans and Democrats are capable of doing the same. Republicans constantly proclaim themselves to be better for the economy and for business. As I explained yesterday, the economic stimulus that HSR would provide California is considerable. Let's hope that the Republicans on these trips come to their senses and see the need to support this fall's HSR bonds.

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