2005: In 2005, the future of a high speed rail system in California was very much in doubt. The 2004 HSR bond had been postponed. The governor suggested delaying or canceling the bond to make way on the ballot for a new transportation bond. Many transportation and environmental groups that had helped get the High Speed Train System bond on the original ballot a few years earlier were not focused on the issue or caught up in fights over various alignments for particular sections of the network. A small group of committed activists saw that there was a need for a group that focused solely on promoting the statewide project. Californians for High Speed Rail was formed to fill that need.
In the years after our founding, CA4HSR undertook the following activities and achieved some successes:
2006: We organized lobbying trips to Sacramento. Working with Assemblyman Mark Leno, we achieved our first two victories.
- We secured $1 billion of the transportation bond money for grade separations projects to support the HSR project.
- We also fought off attempts by Governor Schwarzenegger to indefinitely postpone the High-Speed Rail bond and cut the Authority budget, halting all work. Instead the bond was delayed to the November 2008 election. Part of our success was due to our ability to work with and recruit industry and environmental groups to join us and lobby together for High Speed Rail.
2007: The HSR project came under attack again as the governor attempted to defund the Authority and cancel the High-Speed Rail bond. Again Californians for High-Speed Rail sprung into action. By mid-year, the legislature funded the Authority, but the governor’s office threatened to line-item veto the funds. This despite the fact that Schwarzenegger wrote editorials endorsing the idea of high-speed rail. Due to Californians for High-Speed Rail’s intense lobbying effort, enlisting environmental groups, legislators, and local chambers of commerce, the governor was convinced not to veto the high-speed rail money. By the end of 2007, the picture for high-speed rail in California brightened considerably. The governor came around to supporting the project and rising oil prices reawakened people’s interest in an energy-independent alternative to petroleum dependent airplanes and autos.
2008: In the run up to the 2008 ballot, rail bond. Californians for High Speed Rail members were involved in the various pro-Proposition 1A campaigns. We scored a huge victory, along with all pro-Proposition 1A groups, for the passage of the legislature.
2009: We lobbied federal officeholders to include funding for high-speed rail in the stimulus package. With President Obama’s intervention to include eight billion dollars for high-speed rail, funding to begin construction of California’s High-Speed Rail network became a reality. CA4HSR reactivated our efforts to take up the cause of high speed rail funding. In the last several months we have won important victories:
- After years of lobbying, the Transbay Joint Powers Board approved going ahead with the design and construction of the underground train box as part of the new Transbay Terminal.
- Efforts to cut off the high-speed train at 4th and King or completely blow the budget of the new Transbay Terminal were defeated. Instead the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Transbay Joint Powers Board, Caltrain, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission agreed to a joint Northern California high-speed rail stimulus request.
- Successfully turned back an effort by high-speed rail opponents to insert text into the 2009-2010 California state budget that would have questioned the selection of sharing tracks with Caltrain on the San Francisco peninsula. The language would have jeopardized federal stimulus funding for electrification and a new signaling system for Caltrain.
- We provided thoughtful responses and comments to the California HSR Authority on various sections of the proposed high speed rail route.
2010: This year, we deepen and expand our outreach efforts to build grassroots, political and partners’ support for high speed rail.
- Grassroots Outreach: In January, we launched a statewide effort to bring together individual supporters of the HSR project to provide a stronger and louder collective voice in support of HSR. To date, we have launched several campaigns and collected thousands of signatures expressing support for HSR to our elected officials. We also created several local advocacy teams for sections of the planned HSR route and hosted events to educate, inform and organize members on ways they can help make HSR a reality in California.
With many moving parts to one of California’s most prominent and impactful transportation projects, CA4HSR’s role is more important now than ever. We hope you can join us as a member in support of this worthy cause. Click here to join.