Will San Jose-Fresno bul­let train be­come re­al­ity?

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kate Mur­phy

SAN JOSE, CALIF.» Cal­i­for­nia’s Cen­tral Val­ley and Sil­i­con Val­ley are less than three hours apart by car, but the small towns and vast stretches of farm­land along the mid­dle of the state are a world away from $3,000-per-month stu­dio apart­ments and jammed free­ways.

Amer­ica’s first-ever high­speed rail line would shrink the dis­tance be­tween the two es­tranged val­leys. As soon as 2025, it could con­nect the na­tion’s bread­bas­ket with its most pow­er­ful eco­nomic en­gine, whisk­ing peo­ple from the agri-in­dus­trial city of Fresno to San Jose in un­der an hour.

In re­cent weeks, that vi­sion ap­peared to be com­ing to­gether with light­ning-like speed — some­thing con­sid­ered im­pos­si­ble be­fore June 6.

That’s when search gi­ant Google an­nounced plans to build a 20,000-em­ployee cam­pus within easy walk­ing dis­tance of San Jose’s down­town Diri­don Sta­tion, where both bul­let and BART trains would stop, rais­ing some tan­ta­liz­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties:

Will the 220-mph train be­come a Sil­i­con Val­ley Ex­press for droves of mil­len­ni­als and oth­ers who can barely af­ford to rent, let alone buy, a Bay Area home? Will high-tech com­pa­nies be­gin mov­ing some of their op­er­a­tions to a part of the state where a fam­ily can still buy a nice three­bed­room house for $300,000, trig­ger­ing a mon­u­men­tal pop­u­la­tion shift in Cal­i­for­nia?

“Why not build new com­mu­ni­ties, well-de­signed com­mu­ni­ties, sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties in the Cen­tral Val­ley?” asked Jim Wun­der­man, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Bay Area Coun­cil, a busi­ness-spon­sored public pol­icy group. Why not “have more folks live there and have an ef­fi­cient and pleas­ant train commute into the Bay Area?”

It’s still not a sure thing the train will ever reach San Jose. The state has raised just $12.2 bil­lion — mostly from a voter-ap­proved bond — for the $20.7 bil­lion “val­ley to val­ley” sec­tion con­nect­ing Fresno to Gil­roy and San Jose. And pro­ceeds from Cal­i­for­nia’s cap-and-trade auc­tions are the only other ma­jor source of fund­ing for the project.

How­ever, con­struc­tion has started in the San Joaquin Val­ley, and the train is be­com­ing more real by the day.

Es­ti­mated fares — up to $63 be­tween Fresno and San Jose — could be pro­hib­i­tive for commuters, but com­pa­nies such as Google, Ap­ple and Face­book are sub­si­diz­ing trans­porta­tion costs for work­ers by of­fer­ing free seats on cushy buses that pick up techies from Santa Cruz to San Fran­cisco. They could cer­tainly af­ford to buy down the cost of a train ticket.

“I know the pric­ing is an is­sue, and there’s a real ques­tion as to whether it can re­ally serve as a com­muter rail at the fares con­tem­plated, but it’s not hard to imag­ine how com­pa­nies would be will­ing to pay to en­sure their em­ploy­ees could get here from more af­ford­able com­mu­ni­ties,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Lic­cardo.

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