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High-Speed Rail CEO: People Will Ask How They Lived Without It



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High-speed rail will reduce travel times between major California cities.
That is the belief of the bullet-train authority’s CEO Brian P. Kelly, who spoke in Fresno on Friday (Sept. 7). He said when the rail is built, for example, it will cut the time from San Francisco to Los Angeles compared to a car by half.
First, HSR needs to build its initial segment, from Bakersfield to Merced through Fresno. Kelly anticipates that to be completed by 2026.
There is no estimate for the Bay Area-to-LA line, but Kelly is not worried that the train will be outdated when the project is completed.
“I have no fear of that. I know there is a lot of technology in transportation, like autonomous vehicles,” Kelly said following a speech to the Maddy Institute.
“People say it might be an antiquated technology. In my view, it is a proven technology. It is working all around the world, and I think it will work here.”
Kelly touted three advantages of HSR: mobility, environment, and economics. The project employees 2,300 workers and is partnering with 463 small businesses.

Kelly: We Started Too Early

“We got under construction before we had the right-of-way in hand, the land we needed to build.”HSR Authority CEO Brian Kelly
Kelly concedes one major mistake on the $77 billion project: Work began too early in an effort to meet deadlines for receiving $3.5 billion in federal funds.
“We got under construction before we had the right-of-way in hand, the land we needed to build,” Kelly said.
That led to delays and lawsuits, problems he does not want to repeat in the future.
“That is a lesson learned for us,” Kelly said.
HSR has $22 billion in funding on the books thus far. A major revenue source is future cap-and-trade funding.

Commuter Train?

Kelly says the goal of HSR is to connect California cities, not necessarily be a commuter train.
“It is ultimately an interregional, state ride system between San Francisco and LA. That’s what we have to build to,” he said. “As we build, we will have a commuter benefit as we go. I see the whole system as being a state-wide system, traveling at high speeds, but because we are constrained by funding, we have to build in segments.”
He estimates the SF-to-LA ticket price at $93 dollars one-way. It would be less for travel to and from Fresno, in the $45-60 range. Discounts could be offered based on how often a rider uses HSR.
But, the north-to-south route is still a long time away from happening. Kelly could not provide a timetable when it may happen, saying the project is being built one segment at a time.

Convincing the Doubters

Kelly realized that Fresno is a region with political opposition to HSR, especially from Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare). An oft-heard complaint is that the project is too expensive for what it will deliver.
So, how does he get past the doubters?

“When we get the assets built and completed, and we start putting trains on the ground, I think people see the benefit and they’ll start to come around.” —  Brian Kelly
“By progressing and performing. We now are under construction here. We have a growing number of labors working on that project each day,” Kelly said. “When we get the assets built and completed, and we start putting trains on the ground, I think people see the benefit and they’ll start to come around.”
He envisions that when HSR is running, people will ask how they lived without it.
Another criticism Kelly hears is the lack of private funding. Kelly said the eventual plans for funding HSR is 30% state money, 30% federal, and 30% private investment.
“This project has been too abstract for too long,” Kelly told the audience.
He’s been working to create a more definitive business plan to help attract investors, which include completing environmental documents, picking the route alignment, and partnering with some existing rail lines in the big cities.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email