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UC Irvine report predicts high-speed rail line would create jobs and boost L.A.-Orange County economy

August 26, 2010 |  4:36 pm
The proposal to build a high-speed rail system in California has the potential to create more than 127,000 permanent jobs in the Los Angeles-Orange County area by 2035 and contribute to the economic revitalization of the region, according to a new study by UC Irvine.

“Cities with a high-speed rail station will grow and transition into hubs of commerce,” said Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, who is also chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “This report is a reminder that high-speed rail can provide communities tremendous opportunities to reinvent themselves, and prosper in the process.”

The study by UCI’s Institute for Transportation Studies was released Thursday during a conference at Brandman University in Irvine, where more than 100 elected officials, business leaders, transportation experts and academics gathered to discuss the project’s potential effects in the region.

The event was sponsored by the Orange County Transportation Assn., Veolia Transportation, HDR Engineering, NRG Energy West and the Center for Urban Infrastructure at Brandman, which is part of the Chapman University system based in Orange.

As proposed, the high-speed rail system would run 800 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco with links to Anaheim, Sacramento and San Diego. Plans call for one of the initial phases to be built between Los Angeles and Anaheim.
During construction, the report states, the Anaheim to Los Angeles segment would provide more than $700 million in wages for workers who would have otherwise been unemployed. The study estimates that the project would create more than 57,000 fulltime construction jobs that would last a year.

By 2035, the reports states, the enhanced transportation network and increased mobility created by high-speed rail would attract more than 127,000 permanent jobs to the region. Cities with stations, researchers said, would use high-speed rail as a focal point for new commercial and residential projects, so-called transit-oriented development.

In addition, researchers concluded that by 2035 high-speed rail would prevent the release of about half a billion pounds of greenhouse gases annually as travelers increasingly rely on trains instead of their cars.

The study, however, assumes that the local segment would use an exclusive right of way, a costly approach that would require viaducts, elevated structures and the condemnation of hundreds of homes and businesses. It is estimated to cost at least $4.5  billion.

Now under consideration by high-speed rail officials is a lower-cost alternative to share the existing tracks between Los Angeles and Anaheim with Metrolink, Amtrak and freight railroads, an approach that could save almost $2 billion. If the shared-use concept is adopted, the economic benefits might be substantially less.

-- Dan Weikel