$1 Billion Private Investment Proposed for HSR Maintenance
For the last four years there have been regular indications that the private sector is very interested in participating in the California high speed rail project. Many critics and reporters have dismissed that interest, in part because no firm commitments have been made. Of course, the public sector hasn’t made a firm commitment either, so it makes sense that private investors are waiting. That doesn’t mean they aren’t interested or that solid investment proposals don’t exist. They do. But as with many investment proposals, they often wait in the background until the time is right. In the case of the HSR project, that means a clear sign that the public sector intends to move forward.
With the California High Speed Rail Authority’s adoption of the Madera to Fresno EIS yesterday, one of those possible private investors decided to step forward:
Now, a businessman touting a possible site for a train-maintenance station near Chowchilla is dangling such an investment to the agency.
“We are convinced of the viability of California,” said Ed McIntyre, a partner in the the proposed Gordon-Shaw heavy-maintenance facility site. McIntyre told the authority’s board today in Fresno that he and his partners are prepared to commit up to $1 billion in private-sector investment through development of their site.
McIntyre said that in addition to an estimated $668 million to build the heavy-maintenance facility — a station planned to be located somewhere in the San Joaquin Valley to service trains for the statewide train system — his group is also willing to build a maintenance-of-way facility, where crews would be based to maintain the tracks and right-of-way. Together, the two facilities would add up to a commitment of about $1 billion.
“To those who want further study or planning … I think we’ve planned enough,” McIntyre told the board. “I encourage you to move forward” with approving the environmental impact report for the Merced-Fresno section of the system.
McIntyre is speaking for a lot of other potential investors when he says that HSR is viable. All the studies indicate this is the case, notwithstanding those reports produced by NIMBYs and project opponents. The business case for investing in HSR has long been known – a 2010 UBS report indicated that HSR was a sound investment but that the primary risk was governments would stop supporting it, rather than any concerns about ridership.
This investment proposal won’t be the last to materialize. Many more are waiting in the wings to see whether the state legislature will follow through on the commitment voters made in 2008 to get this project built. It’s a cliche, but this news shows that if we build it, they will come – “they” being both riders and investors.