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Thursday, Jan 31 2013 11:00 PM

ANOTHER VIEW: Supporters of high-speed rail should speak up

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    Kathleen Faulkner

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By KATHLEEN FAULKNER

The Jan. 29 article by Jeff Taylor concerning the California high-speed rail project does not consider the benefits it will bring to our community -- economically and environmentally -- now and in the future. Taylor's argument is that we should just abandon the project and forgo the progress already made. The reality is that the high-speed rail project is going forward but the unnecessary delays will make the price go up. We are probably one of the only communities in the Central Valley not vocal about the opportunities HSR will offer us.

Unfortunately, a small group of HSR opponents is still trying to stir up anger and confusion. Among them is Taylor of the so-called Save Bakersfield group, which regularly attacks this great transportation system ("High-speed rail derailed itself with route changes, cost hikes").

Taylor's outrage seems based largely on a false interpretation of the project's original price tag. In fact, the figure Taylor cites is an old estimate. Proposition 1A, passed by voters in 2008, does not specify that this system would cost $33 billion to build. In neither the ballot initiative nor in AB 3034 (which the Legislature passed detailing the proposal) will one find that figure. The only state money specified by the law is $9.5 billion in bonds. Everything else remains to be determined.

Granted, the High-Speed Rail Authority has revised its business plan several times. What public or private agency has never done that? Maybe, as Taylor suggests, construction along the Interstate 5 corridor could have been faster and cheaper. But that is not what voters agreed to do. It was the people and our representatives, not the rail authority, who turned down that idea.

Perhaps opponents don't understand that HSR will help our economy. For their information, almost every similar system in the world operates profitably. It has proven to be good for jobs, good for business and good for the quality of life in Europe and Asia.

On the other hand, it is an insult to all American workers for Taylor to suggest that we should have outsourced this project to the French National Railway. It is equally offensive to mislead the public through innuendo and hyperbole that California taxpayers are overwhelmingly opposed to this project. We are not.

Taylor says, "Authentic, responsible and principled leaders often have to change their positions as circumstances change. That kind of leadership takes courage."

I agree. That's what leaders of this infrastructure project have done. It would be highly irresponsible to throw away such a golden opportunity for the Golden State. I'm dismayed by the lack of courage displayed by HSR critics, particularly our elected officials who persuaded us to vote for the project and now want to pull the plug. That's not good leadership.

The rail authority may have fallen short of perfection in executing its mandate. But as the old philosopher said, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Once and for all, let's stop wasting time and money. Let's stop grumbling and get on with the job. Derailers may continue to advocate a cut-and-run policy if they wish. Sadly, they will be left behind. Californians are continuing to ride the progress train with or without them.

Kathleen Ellis Faulkner of Bakersfield is a private attorney. Another View presents a critical response to a previous editorial, column or news story.

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