The following op-ed was authored by California business leaders, including OCBC President and CEO Lucy Dunn.
California is fighting to turn the economy around. From small businesses to billion-dollar corporations, business leaders throughout the state are working together with Governor Jerry Brown to revive California’s economic vitality.
With its $1.9 trillion economy, California ranks among the 10 largest economies in the world. However, the state’s infrastructure is straining to keep up with increased demands. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of transportation. According to recent studies, due to inefficiencies in our roadways Californians waste nearly $19 billion annually due to lost time and wasted fuel.
A population’s mobility is a key to promoting thriving businesses and job creation. California’s transportation system was once the envy of the world, and we reaped the economic rewards of that system for decades. Today, that same system is hopelessly gridlocked. By 2035, California’s population will hit 50 million, straining our current system even further. Development of high-speed rail is desperately needed to meet these demands.
Over the next couple of weeks, the Legislature will vote to determine whether to release the Proposition 1A funds, approved by the voters, and begin construction immediately. As business leaders, we ask that the Legislature join us in supporting this important project, release the bonds, and ensure California maintains its position as a strong, vibrant economic world leader.
High-speed rail will connect California’s urban centers, providing increased access and mobility to residents in all communities throughout the state. The system will optimize the use of existing regional transit systems, immediately providing early investment dollars to improve regional rail systems in Northern and Southern California. This phased approach will ensure Californians realize the benefits of high-speed rail sooner and more cost-effectively.
This vision for high-speed rail will be a potent and transformational agent for California’s economy on several key fronts.
The construction of this system alone will put thousands of Californians back to work. The construction industry has been decimated by the economic crisis and these skilled workers are ready to put their energy and experience toward building for our future. Construction of the first segment of the Initial Operating Section is expected to generate 100,000 job-years of employment during the construction period. These jobs will begin to be available early next year if the Legislature releases the critical Proposition 1A funds and initial construction begins.
Additionally, California’s economic competitiveness will be strengthened by creating a more efficient and effective transportation system. Station cities are anxious to reap the economic development benefits that will follow the transit-oriented development planned at each station, which will include retail centers, restaurants, and improved multimodal centers promoting more walkable communities. Workers as well as consumers will have easier access to markets up and down the state, making them stronger by tying our many economic centers together.
All told, high-speed rail is critical to California’s economic recovery, a recovery that is real and sustainable. The Legislature must release the high-speed rail funds to ensure California can once again lead the way in innovation, transportation planning and leverage our economic development opportunities. Building the system will ease congestion on the state’s roads and highways, and strengthen our economic foundation. It will put Californians back to work. This is a course of action born of foresight, innovation, and courage.