December 27, 2011 > High-speed rail officials concede jobs inflated
High-speed rail officials concede jobs inflated
Submitted By AP Wire Service
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP), Dec 23 - California's high-speed rail officials backed off Friday on claims that the proposed construction of a bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles would create more than a million jobs.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority acknowledged that its definition of jobs has been ``imprecise and potentially confusing,'' the San Jose Mercury News (http://bit.ly/t3z4qe) reported.
The officials were responding to an investigation by the Mercury News that determined the jobs figure does not accurately refer to the number of workers on construction or spinoff jobs.
It instead refers to ``job-years,'' in which a person working for 10 years represents 10 job years, not 10 jobs.
Project officials vowed to make it clear that far fewer people will get jobs than they previously implied, saying now the project will create ``thousands and thousands'' of jobs.
Still, die-hard supporters such as Gov. Jerry Brown said the discrepancies haven't curbed their enthusiasm for the project.
Brown's office issued a statement to the Mercury News, saying the high-speed rail would nevertheless be ``a major, much-needed boost for California's economy.''
``It is important to emphasize that the case for high-speed rail does not revolve around jobs,'' project board member Michael Rossi, the governor's jobs czar, said in the statement. ``It is clear to Californians that something must be done to keep our state moving over the next generation.''
From Sacramento to Washington, political leaders have argued the employment benefits are so great that it's time to embark on the most expensive project for any state in U.S. history. The Legislature has been urged to approve the $6 billion first leg of construction in the Central Valley as officials seek further funding.
Rail officials also had used job-years to add up the number of spinoff jobs they expect outside companies, such as restaurants and retailers, to create to support the project.
Now they estimate about 40,000 actual workers - or two-thirds of the project's total jobs - will be employed in spinoff jobs in a typical year, even in secluded areas such as Central Valley farmlands.
When state voters approved bond funding for high-speed rail in 2008, initial cost estimates came in at $43 billion. But a new business plan released last month more than doubled that estimate, and many Californians have grown leery of spending so much in a poor economy.
Earlier this month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood strongly defended the federal government's nearly $4 billion investment in the train. LaHood acknowledged at a hearing that the project will be expensive, with current estimates putting the cost at nearly $100 billion over 20 years, but he called it essential.
Information from: San Jose Mercury News, http://www.sjmercury.com