Another View: Here’s the real high-speed rail plan

In his recent commentary (“Here’s a better high-speed rail plan that California can afford,” Viewpoints, Sept. 29), Michael D. Setty asserts the need for a more robust rail network in the state. We agree, and under the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown, we have worked with the Legislature over the last five years to advance a statewide rail network with high-speed rail as the backbone.

Unfortunately, the rest of the commentary consists of a litany of erroneous and misleading statements, and fundamentally misrepresents the development of high-speed rail in California.

It was the Legislature and voters who decided the route of the high-speed rail system; it’s not some nefarious strategy hatched by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Contained within the voter-approved language in Proposition 1A is a specific stipulation that high-speed rail serve all the state’s major population areas, including Sacramento, Modesto, Fresno and Bakersfield – Central Valley cities that will play a vital role in California’s future.

And high-speed rail actually will help to reduce sprawl by inducing infill growth around stations and providing new transit-oriented growth to revitalize crumbling downtown areas.

Setty recommends using federal stimulus funds and cap-and-trade revenue to upgrade existing Amtrak corridors, but omits the fact that Amtrak operates over privately owned freight lines and that federal stimulus funds cannot be transferred from high-speed rail. He also disregards that voters specified service of up to 220 miles per hour, not the 110 mph that he advocates.

The purpose of the state’s cap-and-trade expenditure plan is to tackle broader issues of reducing greenhouse gas and achieving sustainable growth; high-speed rail is a key element in this strategy.

Setty claims there is no private sector interest in the program. The fact is that we continue to receive serious interest from infrastructure and investment firms both domestic and abroad, who agree with our ridership, revenue and cost projections that show there will be enough demand to generate net operating cash flow.

High-speed rail is a transformative investment that will connect economies, advance sustainable growth, and create jobs and opportunity. This is the vision for high-speed rail. Our job is to implement this vision by building a comprehensive rail system that will be fast, efficient, clean and reliable, and will benefit Californians throughout the state, not one group or special interests.