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Tuesday, Jan 15 2013 11:00 PM

ANOTHER VIEW: Keeping high-speed rail on track requires courage, vision

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    Terry Phillips

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By TERRY PHILLIPS

Let's be clear. The people have spoken. California is going to build a high-speed rail system.

In a recent essay ("California high-speed rail plan is simply a Field of Dreams," Jan. 15), Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Denham advocated a cut-and-run policy. I respectfully disagree.

While one may quibble over details, the time for debating whether to authorize this project is over. We are moving forward. A process is in place to construct a world-class transportation system. It will create thousands of good jobs, produce economic opportunities, alleviate highway congestion and mitigate air pollution.

Unfortunately, a few are still trying to campaign against us. After having lost at the ballot box, they now want to use the planning process to kill the project. It won't work.

Some politicians who supported HSR when things were easy have turned out to be fair-weather friends who run for the hills when there are troubles.

One of the chief arguments flung against this project is that we can't afford it. America faced greater financial troubles during the Great Depression, and yet we build the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams, the Golden Gate Bridge and New York's Lincoln Tunnel to name but a few. That required courage and leadership beyond the ability to say "no."

It is hypocritical to attack the lack of resources when McCarthy tries to take away the very federal funds he promised five years ago. He originally supported money for HSR, then introduced a bill (HR 3143) to freeze those dollars earmarked for the project. That puts a greater burden on California taxpayers. What's worse, he routinely compares government budgets with family budgets. That is the reddest of red herrings.

Suggesting that we should get our fiscal house in order before starting this project misses the point. HSR will be a major boon toward fiscal solvency.

Another criticism is that anticipated ridership has been exaggerated. In fact, it is impossible to measure something that doesn't exist yet. Moreover, the greater value of this project is not how many people ride in one year. It is the benefit of cumulative ridership in decades and centuries.

Besides, when has the investment in major transportation infrastructure ever been a bad idea? The interstate highway system? Our nation's airports? NASA?

If you wish to compare this to your family budget, consider the value of putting a new roof on the house -- or the consequences of failing to do so.

As with all big government programs, HSR will undoubtedly have cost overruns. It will also require modifications from the original plan. An experienced entrepreneur would know that all successful businesses must deal with many challenges. Those who think otherwise are naive or dishonest or both.

Ironically, McCarthy was one of the congressional delegates who campaigned to put Proposition 1A on the ballot in 2008. (That's the initiative that authorized funding for California high-speed rail.) But when electoral winds began to blow against him, he flip-flopped.

If these critics are truly concerned about local communities, they would rally behind this project. Instead, they exploit their positions of public trust and obstruct the will of the people.

This vital infrastructure project is too important to be treated as a political football. We need to come together and stop allowing selfish sore losers to interfere with our best interests.

McCarthy often refers to the baseball movie "Moneyball," in which Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane famously asks, "You think losing is fun?" My favorite baseball movie is "Field of Dreams." To paraphrase its grand philosophy, "If we build it, they will come."

Let's not allow a few naysayers to derail our train to the future. All aboard!

Terry Phillips is an independent journalist living in Bakersfield. He ran against McCarthy last November as a no-party-preference candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in California's 23rd Congressional District. Another View presents a critical response to a previous editorial, column or news story.

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