Last week I attended the 2014 California Passenger Rail Summit where industry leaders met to discuss the modernization and integration of passenger rail service in California. While the California High Speed Rail train was an important element, to me the main takeaway was the vision of statewide rail connectivity benefiting all of California’s communities.
Several regional government representatives spoke about the success of existing corridors, such as the Capital Corridor and the expanding LOSSAN corridor, as well as emerging corridors such as the Salinas Rail extension planned by the Transportation Agency for Monterey County.
Of course, a discussion of rail in California would be incomplete without discussing High Speed Rail. But this summit put high speed rail in context with the vision of a modern, complete rail system in California. I also gained a better sense of why it makes sense to start in the Central Valley, and how the project is part of that much larger vision. While much has been said in criticism of the project, it was not surprising to learn that other major infrastructure improvements faced similar hurdles. (Did you know over 2,000 lawsuits were filed to stop construction of the Golden Gate Bridge?) California has always been a leader when it comes to game-changing projects, and I think if we can make the investment now, future generations will look back and applaud our vision.
As I learned, rail will be key to keeping California’s economy strong, whether it is getting tourists where they need to be, or connecting citizens to the major job centers. I came away from the summit excited about the coming future and I look forward to opportunities to be part of that future.