The announcement that a Green New Deal policy would bring with it a national effort to build high-speed rail systems is reminding Americans of California’s own challenges to build one.
The state’s project, which has been beset by cost increases and delays, was described in a November audit as being plagued by “flawed decision making and poor contract management.”
In introducing the details of a Green New Deal and including high-speed rail as one of its core concepts, Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, on Thursday were clearly more focused on the mode of transit’s promise than on its problems.
Here’s what you need to know about the policy’s high-speed rail goals and California’s own project.
What is the Green New Deal?
Here’s an explanation from Ocasio-Cortez:
“The Green New Deal is a 10-year plan to create a greenhouse gas neutral society that creates unprecedented levels of prosperity and wealth for all while ensuring economic and environmental justice and security,” a blog post from her office says.
The idea pays tribute to a package of bills and programs proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration that were meant to provide relief to Americans during the Great Depression in the 1930s. The idea of a “green” version of his efforts — combining environmental policy with economic policy — is not new, but instead has been around for more than a decade.
Here’s a link to the new Green New Deal resolution which outlines a plan to “mobilize every aspect of American society” at a scale not seen since World War II “to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all.”
So what’s the high-speed rail connection?
One of the main goals of the Green New Deal announced on Thursday has to do with overhauling the nation’s transportation systems. The attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would entail three types of investment, according to the resolution. They are 1) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing, 2) clean, affordable and accessible public transit, and 3) high-speed rail.
More specifically, that would mean to “build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary,” an FAQ sheet about the resolution says.
How’s California done with high-speed rail?
California first created a High-Speed Rail Authority in 1996. More than two decades later, there’s not much to show for it but some sample pillars in the Central Valley near Fresno with construction ongoing.
California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond measure in 2008 as seed money for the project.
When completed, the high-speed rail — widely known as the “bullet train” — is supposed to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles by 2033 at a cost of $77 billion. The original project estimate was $34 billion.
In January, Gov. Jerry Brown reappointed two leaders he believes could keep the troubled project moving forward, and their current focus is to build the portion from the Central Valley to San Jose. New Gov. Gavin Newsom has inherited the project.
How’s the Green New Deal being received?
After hearing about the Green New Deal’s lofty high-speed rail plans, many on social media immediately thought of California. Here’s a look at the reaction, which includes some debate over high-speed rail systems in general.
Do you support or oppose California’s high-speed rail project? Do you think American should proceed with more high-speed rail systems across the country?
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The Conversation with Abby & Luis is a podcast that slows down the news cycle to make sense of issues and stories that matter to listeners in San Diego and beyond. We talk to news makers, experts and others to offer interesting, in-depth conversations that will keep you up to date and informed.