Governor Jerry Brown and The Little Engine That Could
Governor Jerry Brown delivered his 11th State of the State address today in Sacramento, and it must have been his most triumphal speech yet. Brown’s first two terms as governor saw the state swing from crisis to crisis and had many asking if the California Dream was dead. Here in his third term, however, Brown has successfully pulled the state from its worst crisis yet. The state is on a very positive track, with a brighter future than probably any other state in the union, and Brown took the occasion to celebrate how “California has confounded its critics.”
Included in that triumph was a strong defense of the high speed rail project. You can see a clip of those remarks below, which includes an extemporaneous discussion of a beloved children’s book that the governor saw as a metaphor for the high speed rail project:
In Brown’s telling, the HSR project is “The Little Engine That Could” – working hard to get over the mountain. And after 30 years of working on the HSR project, it’s now over the mountain with construction beginning on its first segment later this year.
Brown’s Republican critics mocked this and kept pointing out that the HSR project isn’t fully funded – thanks to Republican opposition in Congress. But in California, Republicans are a fringe party that is no longer politically relevant. It’s a Democratic state with a Democratic governor who has his high speed rail triumph. And he’s going to continue fighting hard to get more funding and help get the project on a path to completion.
Significantly, Governor Brown also mentioned that he is beginning a study looking at how California can provide long-term transportation funding. This is an issue that is becoming increasingly important as existing funding sources fail to keep pace with maintenance, and as the demand for passenger rail continues to soar. Over the next two years transportation funding will become a greater issue, and hopefully a good proposal that emphasizes mass transit can make it to the ballot for November 2014.
The relevant section of Brown’s speech is excerpted below.
Transportation and High Speed Rail
In the years following World War II, California embarked on a vast program to build highway, bridges and roads.
Today, California’s highways are asked to accommodate more vehicle traffic than any other state in the nation. Most were constructed before we knew about climate change and the lethal effects of dirty air. We now expect more.
I have directed our Transportation Agency to review thoroughly our current priorities and explore long-term funding options.
Last year, you authorized another big project: High Speed Rail. Yes, it is bold but so is everything else about California.
Electrified trains are part of the future. China already has 5000 miles of high speed rail and intends to double that. Spain has 1600 miles and is building more. More than a dozen other countries have their own successful high speed rail systems. Even Morocco is building one.
The first phase will get us from Madera to Bakersfield. Then we will take it through the Tehachapi Mountains to Palmdale, constructing 30 miles of tunnels and bridges. The first rail line through those mountains was built in 1874 and its top speed over the crest is still 24 miles an hour. Then we will build another 33 miles of tunnels and bridges before we get the train to its destination at Union Station in the heart of Los Angeles.
It has taken great perseverance to get us this far. I signed the original high speed rail Authority in 1982—over 30 years ago. In 2013, we will finally break ground and start construction.