Governor Brown, in his sixteenth State of the State address, highlighted transportation infrastructure as a critical investment in California’s economy:
Our economy, the sixth largest in the world, depends on mobility, which only a modern and efficient transportation system provides. The vote on the gas tax was not easy but it was essential, given the vast network of roads and bridges on which California depends and the estimated $67 billion in deferred maintenance on our infrastructure. Tens of millions of cars and trucks travel over 330 billion miles a year.
The funds that SB 1 makes available are absolutely necessary if we are going to maintain our roads and transit systems in good repair. Twenty-five other states have raised gas taxes. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called for a federal gas tax because the highway trust fund is nearly broke.
Government does what individuals can’t do, like build roads and bridges and support local bus and light rail systems. This is our common endeavor by which we pool our resources through the public sector and improve all of our lives. Fighting a gas tax may appear to be good politics, but it isn’t. I will do everything in my power to defeat any repeal effort that may make it to the ballot.
Since I have talked about tunnels and transportation, I will bring up one more item of infrastructure: high-speed rail. I make no bones about it. I like trains and I like high-speed trains even better. So did the voters in 2008 when they approved the bond. Look, 11 other countries have high-speed trains. They are now taken for granted all over Europe, in Japan and in China. President Reagan himself said in Japan on November 11, 1983: “The State of California is planning to build a rapid speed train that is adapted from your highly successful bullet train.” Yes, we were, and now we are actually building it.
Like any big project, there are obstacles. There were for the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, for the Golden Gate Bridge and for the Panama Canal. But build it they did and build it we will — America’s first high-speed rail system. One link between San Jose and San Francisco — an electrified Caltrain — is financed and ready to go. Another billion, with matching funds, will be invested in Los Angeles to improve Union Station as a major transportation hub and fix the Anaheim corridor.
The next step is completing the Valley segment and getting an operating system connected to San Jose. Yes, it costs lots of money but it is still cheaper and more convenient than expanding airports and building new freeways to meet the growing demand. It will be fast, quiet and powered by renewable electricity and last for a hundred years.
Already, more than 1,500 construction workers are on the job at 17 sites and hundreds of California businesses are providing services, generating thousands of job years of employment. As the global economy puts more Americans out of work and lowers wages, infrastructure projects like this will be a key source of well-paid California jobs.
Difficulties challenge us but they can’t discourage or stop us. Whether it’s roads or trains or dams or renewable energy installations or zero-emission cars, California is setting the pace for America. Yes, there are critics, there are lawsuits and there are countless obstacles. But California was built on dreams and perseverance and the bolder path is still our way forward.
For more information on our work to improve state highways and roads in your community, visit RebuildingCA.ca.gov.
For information on construction activity on the nation’s first high-speed rail line, visit http://buildhsr.com/.