Recently, the California High Speed Rail Authority released its new plan for the construction of the long-awaited bullet train, putting the cost at $80 billion for a line running from Burbank to Merced. Voters approved the project in 2008 with a projected completion date of 2020. Now, the business plan projects that the rail line will be fully operational by 2033.
The high speed rail proposed in 2008 responded to the environmental and transportation concerns of California citizens. It promised clean transportation for travelers and construction jobs for thousands of Californians. But now, representatives voice concerns about the increasing budget and lengthening time frame.
“Once again, it seems the High-Speed Rail Authority has released in the 2020 draft business plan a proposal for its future that it can’t afford and that won’t deliver what is promised,” Jim Frazier, Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman, said.
In light of this development, or more accurately, the underdevelopment of the bullet train, here are five things that are a better use of $80 billion that would help the environment and would be better than a bullet train from Burbank to Merced.
- Invest that money in researching alternative fuels. Many researchers, such as the Nation Renewable Energy Laboratory, are currently investigating hydrogen and algae as viable clean energy options. With $80 billion, these researchers could accomplish things that would contribute to fighting climate change globally.
- Fix California’s broken pipes. Los Angeles, in particular, has incredibly old pipes, some reaching their 100th birthdays. According to the National Association of Water Companies, 240,000 pipes burst in the U.S. each year, wasting a tremendous amount of water. Since water is a precious commodity in California, $80 billion could replace a lot of pipes and save a lot of water.
- Improve the rail lines already in use. California has almost 5,000 miles of existing railroads. By improving these railways and making rail travel more accessible to daily commuters, the state could make a heavier impact.
- Heal the San Joaquin Delta. The San Joaquin Delta suffers from declining populations of important fish species including the delta smelt and California king salmon. California could invest the money in healing the delta and researching irrigation methods that don’t harm these endangered species.
- Build solar and wind farms. By investing in sustainable energy like constructing more solar and wind farms, California could make all energy use more sustainable. The benefits would not be limited to people traversing the entire length of the state as ordinary businesses and households could run on clean energy instead of natural gas.
The idea for the bullet train has California’s well-being in mind, but more practical environmental measures would be a better use of state funds. Unfortunately, voters only approved these bonds to build the high speed rail, so we’ll all be able to easily travel from Burbank to Merced after another decade of patience.
Emily Anderson is a Staff Writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.