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IDEAL vs REAL If you’re a visionary, a modern railway has the potential to connect people with jobs, universities, affordable housing and cultural activities that are currently either too far away or require hours per day of travel on congested high- ways. Railway station areas can create opportunities for cities to reinvent themselves as regional hubs for commerce and community life. A high-speed rail system, connected to local transportation, can support more geographically- balanced population growth, and economic growth, over the long haul. If you’re a pragmatist, a public works project needs to meet the letter of the law. A modern railway needs a credible design- build strategy, schedule, and budget. It needs environmental and regulatory approvals and funding commitments before the first shovel hits the dirt. It needs a passenger base and fare structure to operate in the black within an agreed-upon timeframe. If any of these conditions aren’t met, the project would have to be scaled back, delayed, or somehow reinvented. For the average citizen, it’s a lot to figure out, but we can’t afford not to. There’s too much at stake. Join TODAY as we explore high-speed rail in this third installment in our Infrastructure Series. gmh PLAYING in the BIG LEAGUES The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) is literally “the Authority” tasked with planning, designing, and building—but not operating—what will be America’s fi rst statewide high-speed rail system. Its Northern California Regional Director, Ben Tripousis, likens the High-Speed Rail to “legacy projects” such as the University of California system, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the State Water Project. “Investing in High-Speed Rail is investing in California’s future and the mobility of 50 million people by 2050,” he said. The HSR project identifies 24 rail stations connecting roughly 800 miles from Sacramento to San Diego. If all goes according to plan, Phase I will connect the Central Valley to Silicon Valley, and San Francisco to Anaheim, with trains in operation by 2029. Phase II will extend the rail system north to Sacramento and south to San Diego by 2040. The capital budget for Phase I now hovers around $64.2 billion—nearly double the original estimate. Experts familiar with large-scale infrastructure projects say that figure could exceed $120 billion before Phase I is completed. As Tripousis explained, those budget numbers represent “year of expenditure” dollars. For a project that s expected to span more than three decades, it’s an important distinction. Prop 1A established a $9.95 billion general obligation bond to help finance the project with the bulk of funding to be secured from federal, local, and private sources. With a 30-year payoff of principal and interest, that’s nearly $20 billion of bond debt—a mere fraction of the total bill. More on this later. Annual ridership is projected to be somewhere between 19.6 million and 31.8 million—down from the original estimate of 65.5 million to 117 million. Projections for passenger fares between San Francisco and L.A. have risen to $86—up from $50. How all of this pencils out when the Authority releases its 2018 Business Plan Update is uncertain, but we’re playing in the big leagues now. MEET BEN TRIPOUSIS Ben Tripousis serves as Northern California Regional Director for the High-Speed Rail Authority. It’s a tough job working on a multi- year project with endless moving parts. He deals with dozens of agencies at the local, state and federal levels; each has its own agenda. With 800 miles of rail system and 24 stations to build, the volume of environmental, regulatory, and technical details must be exhausting. Before joining CHSRA in 2012, he was Transportation Policy Manager for the City of San José. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from UC Berkeley and a Master’s in Public Administration from San José State. 14 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY/AUGUST 2017