California Gives Green Light to High-Speed Train

The 220-mile-per-hour electric high-speed train system will reduce greenhouse gases by 12.7 billion pounds annually.

Voters in California this week agreed to bankroll a multi-billion dollar high-speed railway system, with technology to come from either Japan or Europe. The California High-Speed Rail Authority said on Nov. 4 that voters in a referendum held across the state gave their backing to financing the startup of the project.

The train would connect San Francisco to Los Angeles and would cost $45 billion, according to news reports, which said the measure was approved by a vote of some 52% to about 48%.

In a statement, Quentin Kopp, chairman of the rail authority, said: "History will remember this night, when Californians demanded a new transportation system for California's 21st century travel needs. "Thanks to tonight's vote, a state-of-the-art, new transportation choice will link every major city in the state and move people and products like never before."

The authority says the system will transport 117 million passengers a year by 2030, create 160,000 jobs.

"A reliable 220-mile-per-hour electric high-speed train system will reduce our dependence on foreign oil by more than 12 million barrels per year and reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming by 12.7 billion pounds annually," Kopp added.

California has about 37 million people, but no commercial wide-track high-speed rail system akin to bullet trains like those found in France and Spain. Nor does the state have a commercial wide-track "maglev" magnetic-levitation system such as China.

The only "higher-speed" train that has been used in the U.S. is Amtrak's Acela, a model that can tilt on current narrow rails to allow for higher speeds on existing track, without the investment in other technologies that require wider track beds.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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