With continuing support from Gov. Jerry Brown and the White House, private-sector interest has remained strong. When we asked members of the business community a few months ago to tell us what their interest was in participating in California’s high-speed rail project, we received more than a thousand responses. Recently, nearly 1,500 people came to an industry forum we held in Los Angeles, and nearly 1,000 came to a second industry forum we held later in Fresno.
That interest is not surprising. High-speed rail has demonstrated around the world for years that it not only enhances the quality of life, but is profitable. Every high-speed rail system in the world operates at a profit, covering operations and maintenance costs, and providing a surplus to invest in expanding and improving the system to meet ever-growing demand.
No project of this magnitude has ever been without concerns, some welcome and legitimate, but some born of a desire to continue business as usual. President Eisenhower faced challenges and even opposition when he championed the interstate highway system we all rely upon today; even President Lincoln faced criticism in his pursuit of the transcontinental railroad.
High-speed rail represents an opportunity for the United States to get back on track, and California remains in the best position to lead us there. The problems confronting the country and the state are large and require that we think large in order to solve them. The benefits of high-speed rail are larger than the costs. Now is not the time to shrink from our responsibility but to step up to address the long-term needs of our future generations.
Thomas J. Umberg is chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority and partner at Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP.