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2003 - U.S. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon introduces the first of several bills intended to block the 78-million-ton Cemex gravel mine in Soledad Canyon [story]


Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Thursday, Feb 18, 2016

darrylmanzer0215Well it looks like El Niño started the music and has started to dance a little. Isn’t it great that the weather guessers got it wrong for yesterday and today? How about the cooler temps?

My GPS tells me I’m sitting about 34 feet above sea level. A little over half a mile away is the levee for the Feather River. Not worried, but knowing that the river levees here in the Central Valley are getting pretty old doesn’t give me a whole lot of comfort. What the heck, we’re going to have a train that can, for a few miles at least, go over 200 mph.

Down in Fresno there is a tunnel being built under the Fresno River. I was in Norfolk, Va., when the flood doors on the Midtown Tunnel jammed open during a hurricane. The tunnel flooded. Not good. Nobody was hurt, but it sure caused problems for the traffic around Tidewater, Va.

I would bet that if I asked all y’all the most populous area in Virginia, you would say the cities around Washington, D.C. Well, Tidewater is an area made up of seven cities and a couple of counties. Traffic is terrible. Transportation via light rail is still being argued between Norfolk and Virginia Beach. In the meantime, nothing is improving in the most populous area of the that state.

There are five bridge-tunnel routes that carry thousands of commuters around the Tidewater cities every day. Now get this: They designed roads that have three or four lanes leading to and from those tunnels. Unfortunately, the tunnels are only two lanes. Yep, designed traffic jams. Dump four lanes into two lanes and the backups make our 405 jams almost bearable. Get caught in a westbound jam on the way under Chesapeake Bay on I-64 when it is a normal hot and humid Virginia summer day, and – you get the idea.

So we’re building a high-speed rail system when our roads are rotten and our water supply problems are compounded by little fish that are hardly suitable for bait. Yes, we’re building a high-speed rail system when our schools are underfunded and there is a $400 billion unfunded liability in our state finances. Sort of like going from four lanes to two in a tunnel.

Seems logical to me … not.

I don’t get it. I just filled my Jeep with gas for about $1.69 per gallon. Even when the price was over twice that, I could have driven a round trip in that Jeep for about $185. Today it would be around $90. Now, I know gas prices might not stay this low, but for the current $90 I can transport four folks to San Francisco and back. The last report I read on the high-speed rail, the round-trip ticket would cost about $300 per passenger. Guess how a family of four is going to travel? $1,200 in tickets, or at the most expensive gas price and the not-so-good mileage of a Jeep Wrangler for $185?

Maybe you have a car that gets a lot more miles per gallon. Would you still take the train?

An old farmer here near Yuba City made it clear and simple. He said the average family is having enough problems keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. If they get any extra money to go visit Southern California, they don’t want to waste their precious vacation funds, so they aren’t going to use it for an expensive train trip. The various California taxes don’t help that family, either.

So who is going to ride the train? The California High-Speed Rail Authority seems to think we all will ride it. I will. Maybe once. If the ticket is deeply discounted. Maybe a round trip price of $185 and I get free transportation to and from the stations at either end.

All in all, I’ve still met very few folks up here in the north part of our home state who think the train is a good idea. So far, the ones who do, walk away and get into vehicles with Bernie Sanders election stickers on the bumper. Hope they don’t think I want to let them ride the train for free. Do you?

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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2 Comments

  1. Kraut says:

    Darryl Manzer, you have no room to complain about our terrible roads, as it is your generation that has put off spending on maintenance for DECADES!!

    High speed rail has worked very well all over the world for decades and CA is a perfect fit for it. We need another option, other than the horrendous airports and congested freeways to travel throughout the state.

    So stop crying and making up fallacies about HSR just because YOU don’t like it.

  2. I’ve sat in those VA tunnels you speak of to get from Hampton Roads to the naval base. That was 20 years ago. Can’t imagine the traffic now!

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