The funding of California’s high speed rail project suffered another hit last week thanks to congressional budget cutting, but contractors across the state still hold out hope that they can benefit from the dream to connect San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento by bullet trains.  Should the plan actually succeed, San Joaquin Valley cities like Fresno and Bakersfield would benefit, too.

Or would they?

Advocates of rail talk about the jobs that will result.  Others tout modernization and the ability to travel from California’s largest hubs without enduring the hassles of air security.  But opinions range all over the map whether large scale rail projects really do have a macroeconomic benefit.

Nevertheless, a conference last week in Fresno (pictured) was full of enthusiastic would-be contractors, and the construction could help give a lift to a region that suffers from some of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S.

Economists talk about the multiplier effect that infrastructure projects have on local communities.  Contractors need information technology people, catering, supplies, and administrators.  And in the long run, a safe, convenient, and effective rail system can be a boon to cities like Fresno and Bakersfield--but not for a long time, and the possibility of the final costs ranging anywhere from US$60 to $80 billion is worrisome.

Judging by the attendance at the conference at Fresno State’s Save Mart Center last Thursday, some businesses are bullish.  They should be:  Fresno and Bakersfield would be huge beneficiaries of this rail system, as would passengers.  The cities are too close to Los Angeles and San Francisco to offer cost-effective air travel to those hubs.  And businesses who find the Bay Area or the Southland too expensive to conduct business could find the San Joaquin Valley an attractive prospect if fast transportation elsewhere in the state were possible.

In any event, the time to build such a rail network is now--as with any huge construction project, the effects will not be reaped for years.  But that does not mean we should not tackle them--an increasing population and maxed-out airports are just a couple of the reasons why California must pursue and complete the high speed rail project--with full transparency and please, without any wasteful spending that will launch strawman arguments.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.