McGeorge School of Law

Capital Center Lecture Series Crowd Gets an Insider View of Rail Project

October 19, 2012

Dan Richard, ’80, speaks

Dan Richard, '80, is the chair of California's High-Speed Rail Authority.

Dan Richard, '80, the chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority, gave an insiders' view of what will be the largest public works project in American history in the Witkin Schaber segment of the Capital Center Lecture Series on Oct. 17 at the Sutter Club in downtown Sacramento.

More than 120 attendees listened attentively to the detailed plans of the megaproject, the earthly, political and financial obstacles it faces, and a vigorous defense of its place in California's future.

"Governor Brown made a deliberate, considered decision to move forward with this project," Richard said. "It might be politically expedient for him to take the off-ramp, as some have suggested, but we cannot stand still if we are to have the infrastructure that a growing California population will need in the middle of this century."

"The idea if a high speed rail system in California has been around for a long time, even longer than the 1970s when Governor Reagan spoke in favor of it," Richard said. "Several other countries, including Japan, France and Italy, have it and these systems pay for themselves. There are no government subsidies, and neither will our system need subsidies."

Using an electrified, grade-separated track, high speed rail will allow speeds up to 220 mph in rural areas and be competitive with air travel timetables in the California corridor. The initial 130-mile segment of the line from Madera to Bakersfield was chosen so that it could test those speeds, Richard said.

Initial funding for the project was approved by California voters in November 2008 with the passage of the Proposition 1A bond issue. Richard said there are other designated funds in the 2009 federal stimulus, and he feels strongly that a pay-as-you-build plan will succeed, even attracting private funds. The first phase of the megaproject is scheduled for completion in the year 2022.

The Witkin Schaber Lecture, part of McGeorge's Capital Center Series, was sponsored by the Witkin Institute, which supports state legal education to honor the late California legal scholar B.E. Witkin.