A report issued Tuesday by the University of California describes the
state's embattled high-speed train proposal as an opportunity for environmental
and economic benefits in the San Joaquin Valley.
If, that is, the region can overcome the fractious politics that surround the controversial bullet-train plans.
Tuesday's report was jointly produced by the law schools at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at Los Angeles. The release of the report coincided with a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon in Fresno where representatives from agriculture, development and the California High-Speed Rail Authority discussed how to manage the economic and environmental impacts of high-speed trains in the Valley.
The report and the panel discussion come on the heels of two important developments Friday: a judge's ruling that the rail authority's November 2011 business plan and funding plan failed to comply with provisions of a 2008 state bond measure; and the rail agency signing a contract with a team of contractors to design and build the first 30-mile segment of the statewide train system in the Fresno-Madera area.
The high-speed train, which would link San Francisco and Los Angeles by way of the Valley, presents both challenges and opportunities, wrote Ethan Elkind, the report's author. Elkind is a climate policy associate with the UCLA School of Law's Environmental Law Center and the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the UC Berkeley law school.
"The system has the potential to worsen California's development patterns -- and therefore the environment, economy and public health," Elkind wrote. In the Valley, that potential stems from a history of low-density, car-oriented housing developments that chew up valuable agricultural land. Such development, he said, leads "to traffic congestion, poor air quality and the ongoing loss of the region's invaluable agricultural resources."
High-speed rail, he said, could increase such growth. "To heighten the challenge," he added, "the Valley has been divided politically over high-speed rail while experiencing some of the worst effects from the recent recession."
But there are opportunities for economic and environmental benefits, the report suggests, "if Valley leaders can develop and implement supporting policies." In addition to jobs building the rail system, Elkind wrote, "the system could create new business opportunities in Valley cities connected to the major economic hubs in the state."
Traffic congestion and air quality could also be improved if the system were to be successful in attracting motorists and airline passengers as an alternative for travel to the Bay Area and Southern California.
Lack of Valley-wide organization cited
The report outlines four key barriers to efficient development of high-speed rail and proposes possible solutions:
-- No Valley-wide organization to help guide decision-making on the rail project.
-- A lack of money for cities' planning of development around high-speed train stations.
-- Continuing financial and policy promotion of automobile-oriented development.
-- Lack of funds for development projects in cities to connect high-speed rail to the rest of the community.
Elkind also proposes several solutions, most focused on Valley-wide
Most Popular Stories
- Twitter Names Woman to Board
- Aspen Contracting Adding 300 Jobs
- Obamacare Doing Just Fine, Ky. Governor Says
- Rand Paul Signs up for Obamacare
- Hispanic Employment Improves in November
- U.S. Chamber to Run Ads in Idaho, W.Va.
- U.S. Unemployment Rate Dips to 7 Percent
- Consumer Spending Rises, Incomes Fall
- American Eagle Issues Weak Q4 Outlook
- NSA Tracks 5 Billion Cellphone Records a Day