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Editorial: A green light for trains in California

(The following editorial appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle website on November 7,.)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. A southbound economy isn't the best backdrop when asking voters to spend billions on blueprints for new train service. There are other hurdles: doubts about budget guarantees, the wait for the rails to start running, and aren't fancy trains French-sounding in a state filled with freeways and pick-ups?

But to their credit, state and local voters saw the potential of reviving trains on two ballot measures. The first was a $10 billion bond to build a high-speed system running 220-mph trains between San Francisco's Transbay Terminal and Union Station in Los Angeles.

It's a down payment on a $40 billion-plus project and a public blessing for a plan that will see electric trains zipping from Sacramento to San Diego. It's also a financial tonic that should create jobs and could offer weary drivers and air travelers a comfortable option in a traffic-clogged state. The plan's biggest booster, former San Francisco legislator and judge Quentin Kopp, believes digging could begin by the end of 2010.

On a smaller but comparable scale was the success of Measure Q, approved by Sonoma and Marin county voters. Modern diesel trains will ride on 70 miles of refurbished rails from Cloverdale to Larkspur. The commute system will be paid for with a quarter-cent raise in the local sales tax. It's a bump that voters apparently feel is preferable to time spent drumming fingers on steering wheels on backed-up Highway 101.

Friday, November 7, 2008

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