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San Diego hosts high-speed train meeting

(The California High-Speed Rail Authority issued the following on September 3.)

SAN DIEGO San Diego-area officials today told the California High-Speed Rail Authority they expect a broad range of environmental and economic benefits if voters approve Proposition 1A, the plan on the November ballot to build a high-speed train system linking major California cities from San Diego to San Francisco and Sacramento.

"The presence of the California High-Speed Rail Authority here in San Diego marks the start of an era -- an era of improved mobility throughout the state and an era that ensures San Diego has a place at the table when it comes time to disperse Proposition 1A funds to build the high-speed rail system," said Gary Gallegos, executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

High-Speed Rail Authority Board Member Lynn Schenk, a long-time advocate for high-speed rail and the region, highlighted the importance of bringing high-speed train service to San Diego.

Schenk noted that Governor Schwarzenegger's signing of AB 3034 into law last week was important to assure that San Diego would receive critical Proposition 1A funding. "We've taken the first step," she said, praising the Authority board for working side by side with local transportation planners.

"The San Diego-Los Angeles corridor has been the second-busiest passenger rail corridor in the US for a long time," said Schenk. "We have stalled on building another airport and our freeways going north are a river of red brake lights.

"In other countries with high-speed trains, there is clean economic development and jobs wherever there are stations. Because of all that, I have devoted the past 25 years to bringing high-speed rail to San Diego and the state. I am enormously proud of having the bill I authored in Congress signed into law creating the first five high-speed train planning corridors -- including San Diego through the Central Valley to the Bay area.

"High-speed rail is key to improving our mobility, our air quality and our quality of life in general. I welcome the support of SANDAG and the Regional Airport Authority. It will take all of us working together to make high-speed rail a reality in San Diego and California."

Gallegos said a newly signed memorandum of understanding with the High-Speed Rail Authority to start planning and engineering work on the LA-San Diego corridor "is extremely important because it also demonstrates that designing and building the system will benefit from significant local involvement and collaboration."

Judge Quentin Kopp, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority Board, commended Gallegos and SANDAG for pushing the MOU through. "It will expedite the environmental and engineering work necessary to make this corridor ready for construction," Kopp said.

San Diego officials briefed the board on local transportation priorities such as an inter-modal transit center at San Diego's international airport, Lindbergh Field. Charlene Zettel, director of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, noted that airport congestion represents a problem all across California, and San Diego is no exception.

According to Zettel, "High-speed rail is yet another tool for helping ensure economic strength in the region by increasing mobility. We have unique challenges with Lindbergh Field that make it even more critical that we work for alternative travel modes that provide convenient, high quality transportation for the community."

Board Chairman Kopp said that with Proposition 1A, voters will have the opportunity to approve important fiscal protections and cost controls. He noted that this November, "San Diegans will be able to vote on a high-speed train system grounded in public-private financing and guided by fiscal accountability with the guarantee of no new taxes to fund the system.

"Once completed, we will see improvements to our air quality, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, congestion relief on our highways, and greater mobility," stated Kopp.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is responsible for building and operating the high-speed train system if voters approve the bond measure. The Authority also is responsible for coordinating integration of conventional intercity train and bus networks into the 800-mile high-speed train system, which will operate at speeds up to 220 mph. The system is forecast to carry over 100 million passengers per year by 2030 with an expected trip time from San Diego to Los Angeles in about an hour and 18 minutes.

Friday, September 5, 2008

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