Thursday, August 25, 2011

Say that again; How many jobs building high-speed rail?

There's only one reason the following article is here.  It's for the point made by Roelof Van Ark that "from 800,000 to 900,000 temporary jobs will be generated for the first phase of construction."  He might as well have said one million jobs.  That's the highest number yet quoted by the rail authority. 

That is as absurd as the ridership projection of 117 million was before the Prop. 1A bond issue election.  Rest assured, there will be far, far fewer jobs, and most of them will not be given to Californians, no matter how out of work they are.

Perhaps they actually mean man-hours, not people. Perhaps they mean worldwide, not just in California. 

The real reason behind such inflated jobs numbers is that this has become the highest priority for the justification of this project. The reason is not about transportation; it's political. It's become, if it already wasn't, a social welfare jobs project. As we've said elsewhere, the re-election of the Obama Administration, and the retention of the Senate by the Democrats depends upon their efforts to reduce unemployment.

High-Speed Rail received billions of stimulus dollars from Washington to just that end. As we've also said many times, this is not actually a transportation project; it may never be completed.  But that's not important.  What's important is their promise to put nearly a million people to work building this.  By the time everyone realizes that these job numbers were hokum, nothing can be done about it, except complain and say, "I told you so."

Well, one more little point.  Umberg, the CHSRA Board Chairman likes to say about this project how it will "move people and goods around our state."  What "goods" does he have in mind?  Is he talking high-speed freight (which no one has yet heard about) or merely the lap-tops used by the business professionals with their travel expense accounts? 
State bond funds eyed for high speed rail
Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal - by David Goll
Date: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 4:05pm PDT
Related: Logistics & Transportation

David Goll
Officials of the California High-Speed Rail Authority said Thursday they want to fund construction of the first phase of their 800-mile rail network through the bond issue that first launched the project in November 2008.

At that time, California voters approved the sale of nearly $10 billion in general obligation bonds to fund design and construction work on the project. The system will connect the Bay Area and Sacramento with Southern California. The plan is to start construction next year on the first phase — a 140-mile stretch between the Fresno and Bakersfield areas. The project has also attracted $6.3 billion in federal funding so far.

But as the project slows cost estimates have risen from $43 billion to as high as $87 billion.

Rail authority officials have said previously they need to start construction of the project by September 2012 to qualify for use of the federal funds.

The first-phase funding plan was presented by Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, at a meeting of the rail authority’s board of directors in Sacramento. It’s being discussed in advance of an updated business plan for the project that will be submitted to the state Legislature by Jan. 1.

Many state legislators have criticized the rail authority’s initial business plan, describing it as overly optimistic on cost estimates and ridership projections.

Van Ark also said Thursday the updated plan projects from 800,000 to 900,000 temporary jobs will be generated by the first phase of construction. He said the project would provide a major jump-start for the Central Valley’s limping economy, and result in 7,200 permanent jobs in the area once the system is completed.

"High-speed rail represents a big step toward getting the California economy back on track," Board Chairman Tom Umberg said in a statement. "From construction through operations, it means hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the means to move people and goods around our state in a way that’s fast, clean and safe."

David Goll covers commercial real estate, retail, economic development and transportation at the Business Journal.

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