Imagine traveling from downtown Los Angeles to downtown San Francisco in just two hours and 40 minutes without driving or flying. Imagine being able to comfortably work on your computer, read a book, listen to your iPod, enjoy the countryside, and arrive relaxed and ready to tackle the day. Fantastic? Yes. A fantasy? No.

In Japan, France, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Russia and the United Kingdom, this is a reality today. Meanwhile, America is playing catch-up with the industrialized world on an issue that reduces stress on our highways and congestion at our airports, conserves energy and puts hundreds of thousands of Californians to work.

California is poised to lead the nation on a project that has proved successful around the world for decades. High-speed rail is a public-private partnership opportunity that does not require us to re-create the wheel, but rather allows us to capitalize on state-of-the-art proven technologies that are operating worldwide.

The president spoke to Congress recently about the need to create American jobs, and specifically cited the need to build a world-class transportation system and asked whether we were going to “sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads at a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?”

In a time when persistent unemployment continues to wreak havoc on economic growth, California’s high-speed rail project – the largest infrastructure improvement effort in the nation – has the potential to create more than 1 million construction job-years alone and is expected to generate another 500,000 permanent jobs in the Californian economy over the next 25 years.

Additionally, at a time when our country struggles with dependence on foreign oil, an environmentally friendly high-speed rail project that relies on clean fuel will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from increased vehicles and air traffic.

With California’s population expected to increase by 12 million in the next 25 years, we have few alternatives. Either we can build an additional 3,000 freeway miles, and expand crowded airports by adding five major runways and 90 passenger gates – or we can offer a high-speed rail system that affords Californians a cost-effective and environmentally sensitive alternative. The availability of high-speed rail between key cities will free up airport capacity for long-haul flights, promoting efficiency in both modes.

Californians have already done their part in funding high-speed rail, signaling their support of the project when they approved Proposition 1A – a $9 billion bond measure – in 2008. In part because of that unwavering support, California has also been awarded more federal funding than any other state in the nation. And, as other states continue to shrink from the challenge of building high-speed rail, California stands poised to gain even more federal funds.