Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tracking The High Speed Rail Bill

Californians got a little bit closer to an environmentally sound, ultra-fast rail connection with the July 1 Senate committee success of Cathleen Galgiani’s high-speed rail bill, AB 3034. This bill would add important new fiscal and environmental safeguards to the bond measure on this November’s ballot, and would establish oversight and accountability measures.

There's a lot riding on this bill -- and on efforts to bring high-speed rail to California.

High-speed rail represents a way to lower the greenhouse gas pollution caused by vehicle trips between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, as well as points between, Sierra Club California’s Tim Frank testified at a recent Senate hearing. In fact, the California Air Resources Board’s
draft plan for California’s Global Warming Solutions Act includes support for high speed rail as a way of lowering the pollution that causes global warming by one million metric tons per year.

Some key amendments make the measure even better for California’s wild places. One would improve service through the Altamont Pass so commuters will be able to reach to the entire Bay Area, not just the East Bay. Another provision would prohibit development of a station in the Los Banos area, since development of that station would promote poor planning practices.

The bill is no slam dunk, however, because it will require the support of 2/3 of the state Senate and Assembly in order to succeed in the California Legislature. We are hoping that combination of improved fiscal responsibility and environmental safeguards will win the bipartisan support this bill needs to succeed.

Read the Oakland Tribune’s take on the hearing

Find out more about high-speed rail from the state agency in charge

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