Sign-jousting supporters of the California High-Speed Rail (HSR)–hailing from San Francisco to Santa Cruz–rallied in front of Mountain View’s Tuesday evening.
There, they proclaimed their support for a project they said would create more jobs, meet California’s growing population needs, better the environment and strengthen the state’s reputation as an innovator.
The crowd, composed of nearly 40 California Alliance for Jobs members, gathered about a half hour before a 7 p.m. hosted by Palo Alto State Senator Joe Simitian.
"We need jobs and we need jobs now," said Jim Homer, a member of Laborers Local 270, a union for Santa Clara and Santa Cruz County workers. "Citizens of California voted to build the High-Speed Rail. We can’t afford to waste any more time."
He stepped up to a podium to speak, while those behind him held up signs with messages such as "HSR=Jobs," "No Rail=More Congestion" and "I Will Ride."
The project has already created construction jobs, according to Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. High-Speed Rail dollars, he added, have gone toward the construction of San Francisco’s new TransBay Transit Center.
"This construction activity will boost our economy when we need it the most and provide sustainable growth for decades to come," he said.
Other speakers defended the project against the large amount of criticism it has garnered, especially after the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority announced last November that it —over two times the cost California voters approved through Prop 1A in 2008.
Economists have decried that the project as financially risky, and has flawed ridership projections. Cities along the Peninsula have taken a particularly strong stance—some, , have drafted official manifestos against it.
Still, "there are far more risks to not moving forward," said Daniel Krause, the co-founder and executive director of Californians for High-Speed Rail at the rally.
"It will cost much more to expand airports and freeways to create the same amount of transportation capacity," said Krause, who pointed out that the project would in turn also lead to higher air pollution and risk of automotive deaths.
The borrowing costs of the project, he continued, would be offset with the requirement that any of Prop 1A used must be matched with a non-state source of funds, "injecting billions of dollars into our state’s economy."
The project’s supporters include San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who has stated that the project is necessary "to maintain our global economic competitiveness."
San Francisco International Airport also counts itself as a project supporter, said Airport Director John Martin in a statement he issued earlier.
"Passenger traffic at SFO is expected to grow to 50 million passengers by 2025," he said. "High-speed rail will reduce the need for short-haul commuter flights and provide greater ability for SFO to accommodate international and long-haul domestic flights."
Now is the time to act on the rail before costs become higher, said Vance Pope a construction operating engineer from Redwood City, after the rally.
"The longer you wait," he said, "the more it’s gonna cost so you might as well get it done."
"The High-Speed Rail would create a lot of jobs for our members," said Alfredo Quintana, a Milpitas construction worker from Laborers Local 270.
Plus, he added, "I’m excited about being able to travel far in a short amount of time."