Friday, October 1, 2010

Is the California High-Speed Rail Coming Around the Corner?

AP Business news reported on Governor Swarzenegger’s trip to China promoting California products and tourism, but a main point on this overseas trip is to investigate high-speed rail technology and financing. The New York Times also reported in early April of this year about China negotiations with Sacramento to use their high speed rail technology to build the rail-line from Sacramento ultimately to San Diego. The proposed rail would initially be built from Los Angeles to Anaheim and San Francisco to San Jose and then expand from their (see A future rail stop will also be in Palmdale Ca. In the AP News article the Governor was to travel from Shanghai to Nanjing using China’s speed train. Currently China has the world’s longest high-speed rail network spanning 4300 miles, and can run up to 220 miles per hour.

The Governor is also planning stops in Japan and South Korea to experience their high speed rail systems as they are also suitors to build the California Rail System. Interesting though South Korea and China learned the technology from France and Germany which have also presented proposals to Sacramento along with Italy and Spain. The Europeans are skeptical of Chinese technology, since its European grown, so there maybe some licensing issues. There may also be labor issues as Chinese labor laws do not favor the laborer. Yet, the Chinese have preliminarily agreed to abide by all US labor laws. The NY Times indicates the cooperation agreement would entail eighty percent of the components to come from American suppliers and assemble to be done in the US. A potential site would be the previous auto plant in Fremont Ca. thereby keeping most of the jobs in the State. The largest obstacle may be financing as the project is expected to cost $46 billion, but Chinese Banks may also be the solution. Up to $8 billion has already been pledged by the Federal Government as part of the Recovery Act. The Chinese have offered to also help further finance the project. Can the US afford such a large contribution in technology and financing from a foreign power? Can the State afford not to with 12 % unemployment? Would travelers actually take the train? There are many real issues that can derail this project, yet numerous governments are also fully behind it.

Many investors in Lancaster and Palmdale have been looking for signs of growth, so the potential for a rail line with the expansion of Solar and Wind technology in the Valley does show current and future expansion. The State Department of Finance is also expecting population growth from 2010-2015 to increase by 2 million and potentially an additional 18 million by 2040 with Southern California getting most of this growth. There looks to be speculative land opportunities still on the horizon, and Antelope Valley looks to benefit.

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