Constructing a Stronger Economy through High Speed Rail
Now that Prop 1A is going to be on the ballot we’re starting to see groups take sides on the issue. Outside the far-right anti-government groups like the Howard Jarvis Association most California political organizations will endorse it, and I’m not going to post about it every time that they do. But the first one that came up is from the California Alliance for Jobs and I thought it was worth dwelling on this for a moment.
The California Alliance for Jobs is a coalition of construction unions, many of whom will benefit from the high speed rail project. So their support isn’t going to be a surprise, and some will just dismiss them as self-interested, that they just want jobs for their workers.
Of course they do. And so should we.
California’s unemployment rate is 7.3% – a 12 year high and the 4th highest rate in the nation, only bested by states in truly dire straits like Michigan. That unemployment rate is going to grow worse over the next few years, and one of the hardest hit sectors has been construction. High speed rail will bring around 160,000 jobs to that construction sector right when those jobs are most desperately needed. 160,000 construction jobs means more spending in restaurants and small businesses, more tax revenue, and ultimately a far more significant economic boost than the tax rebate checks that came and went without any noticeable effect. The Authority projects over 400,000 permanent jobs will be created as a result of HSR.
California has often turned to infrastructure projects to help carry the state through tough times. We built the Bay Bridges in the depth of the recession. The State Water Project was approved during the late 1950s recession. Similar projects have been done around the country and around the world.
And those bridges and aqueducts weren’t just make-work projects. They built lasting value. They anticipated the state’s future needs and 50, 70 years later they still help our economy function.
But we have new needs. We need fast transportation that is independent of oil and runs on renewable energy (more on the CHSRA’s study tomorrow). We need a way to provide transportation that is free from the soaring and unpredictable costs of driving or flying. We also need to cut back on carbon emissions that are threatening the basic functioning of our society through the global warming they produce.
We’ve already wasted time. This project should have been voted on in 2004 or 2006. Instead it finally comes in 2008. In that time other countries have passed us up, building for the 21st century while we sit here and delude ourselves into thinking the 20th century is still viable.
If we are to have economic growth over the next few years, and economic growth over the next few decades, we need to build high speed rail. It won’t solve those problems itself. But it’ll help get us there. So I’m glad to stand next to the construction workers in supporting high speed rail – because we are ALL going to benefit from this project. And we will ALL pay more and have less if we don’t get Prop 1A passed in November.