December 31, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Happy New Year Working Folk!
New York, NY—Perhaps the biggest public works project since the New Deal of the 1930s, California will be officially breaking ground in Fresno on the nation’s first high-speed rail network. Despite numerous fits and starts and inflexible opposition from California Republicans and House Republicans, the project is expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs through its completion by 2029.
The official groundbreaking will take place in Fresno, which will be the future site of a high-speed rail station, one of the 24 stations that the California High Speed Rail Authority will be building, the main agency pioneering the construction.
On January 6, according to the authority, members of the media will have the opportunity, prior to the groundbreaking, to speak with the construction crews who have been doing the preliminary work throughout the year such as demolition of acquired properties to ready for full-scale, sustained construction.
The authority is forecasting that hundreds of thousands of good-paying construction jobs will be created through each phase. On the authority’s website, it claims that the first leg of the initial operation section between Madera and Fresno and continuing to Bakersfield will create 20,000 jobs annually for five years. By the time Phase 1 starts, which will extend from the San Fernando Valley to Los Angeles, 66,000 jobs will be created annually for 15 years.
Many of the jobs are expected to go to the California building trades. Indeed, the Fresno Bee reported in July that unemployed workers hoping to land jobs during the build-out were participating in a six-week apprenticeship offered by the California Building Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Program. The creation of so many jobs that’ll pay union wages should go a long way in reducing California’s official unemployment rate of 7.3 percent (as of October 2014).
For many high-speed rail advocates and proponents, the January 6 groundbreaking is cause for celebration because the authority and Jerry Brown, California’s governor, have been able to overcome numerous attempts by opponents to stop the project either through frivolous lawsuits or exaggerated claims of wasteful taxpayer spending.
While there is still opposition coming from California Republicans such as Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives and Jeff Denham, Chairman of the Railroads Subcommittee, which is part of the very influential House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, California’s unemployed see the nation’s largest public works project as an economic opportunity.
In the aforementioned Fresno Bee piece, one of the unemployed workers in the pre-apprenticeship program tells the reporter she can’t wait for construction to begin.
“I love it. After finishing training, I hope to pass the test, get into the union and be a surveyor.”