China to CA: We'll Build HS Rail & Finance It, Too!

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"Can I get rims on this thing?" It's possible Governor Schwarzenegger is talking about financing terms with People’s Republic of China Ministry of Railways Vice Minister Lu Chunfang. (Credit: Governor's Office)

It's expected high-speed rail running the length of California is going to cost somewhere north of $42 billion.  California voters have gamely signed on for $10 billion, but given the recession, it's hard to say whether there's stomach for more.  The feds will chip in $2.5 billion in stimulus funds, but that leaves the Golden State well shy of the goal.

Enter China. “What other nations don’t have, we have,” said He Huawu, the ministry’s chief engineer. A Bloomberg reporter Kevin Hamlin reports details on that boast were hard to come by.  Not to be outbid, Japan said this week it's prepared to offer funding through the state-owned Japan Bank of International Cooperation.Like car salesmen, they know what this customer wants to hear. This week, it was reported Arnold is chatting with Calpers about a $2 billion loan, to help close this year's budget gap.Yes, you can imagine the trail of the governor's sighs as he sped across China, Japan and South Korea in shiny bullet trains, comparing various bids to build lines linking Los Angeles and San Francisco. High speed rail would shrink to 2 hours and 38 minutes a trip that now takes 6-8 by car or 3 and a half by plane (I count the travel to and from the airport on both ends). Ultimately, the network would extend to Sacramento and San Diego.

"You have done an extraordinary job and I want to thank you because so many of you, thousands of you, go to work every day and do welding, painting, lifting, designing, shipping, all of those things, in order to help us in California rebuild our Bay Bridge." - Schwarzenegger (Credit: Governor's Office)

Elsewhere in China, in the shipyard of Zhenhua Port Machinery Company, to be specific, the Governor hung out with the folks who are building the fabricated steel deck and tower for the self-anchored suspension span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.  Back in 1933, the work was done by a company from around Pittsburgh, (PA), the American Bridge Company. With a lot of funding from the federal government. Price tag? $77 million.  That would be $1.26 trillion in 2009.

These massive public works projects never come cheap.

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About Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness.

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