Do some time travel of the imagination and see yourself standing
at the Gilroy train depot a dozen years from now.
Do some time travel of the imagination and see yourself standing at the Gilroy train depot a dozen years from now. It’s a historic occasion, with dignitaries and residents of the South Valley region waiting for the inaugural train run of the California high-speed rail system linking San Francisco and Los Angeles.
I envision the futuristic-looking train slowing into the station as the Gilroy High School marching band plays “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” The U.S. President, the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary and California’s Governor step out of the front passenger car, along with San Jose’s Rod Diridon Sr., long a vocal supporter of the high-speed rail project.
The officials climb up onto a raised platform bedecked with red, white and blue banners and balloons. The 80-year-old Diridon faces the multitude of people to make a few remarks appropriate at the year 2020 grand opening ceremony.
“Fellow residents of the South Bay,” he says. “We are gathered here to mark a moment of great magnitude for our beautiful region of California. Starting today, the people of the San Francisco Bay Area will be connected by this magnificent new high-speed rail system with the people of Southern California. We can board a bullet train here in Garlic City, and within a couple of hours of comfortable riding at 200 miles an hour, arrive at Union Station in the middle of the City of the Angels.
“No longer will the folks in the South Valley have to journey an hour or more to the San Jose or San Francisco airports to catch a flight to Southern California. No longer do you have to go through the hassle of airport security and an hour wait for your flight. No longer do you have to sit cramped inside a stuffy airplane fuselage. The high-speed rail network we have so handy right in our own region will give you a faster and more comfortable way to travel to L.A.
“Let us remember that building this new rail system that spans the state wasn’t an easy task. Back a dozen years ago, there was high-spirited public debate over the environmental impact of digging the train tunnels through the Diablo Mountain Range. We had a choice between the Altamont Pass through eastern Alameda County or at the Pacheco Pass here in the South Valley. Luckily for Silicon Valley and the South Valley, in July 2008 the governing board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority chose Pacheco Pass as the best route to get the trains across the mountains to the Central Valley.
“And in the November general election back in 2008, California voters gave their approval to Proposition 1, the $10 billion bond measure that paid for about one-third of the project. The rest of the funding came from private investment as well as tax credits and grants from the federal government to promote high-speed rail.
“The foresight that the people of the Golden State had 10 years ago in building a better transportation system will pay off financially, socially and environmentally. With the current cost of oil at $400 a barrel making airplane flights extremely expensive, this new train system will provide a far more economical way to carry passengers and goods through California. The train will also help protect the Mother Nature’s beautiful world by taking hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks off the highways and reducing the carbon footprint.
“The future of California is made more secure by the completion of this high-speed rail network. With more than 45 million residents today, and a projected 60 million in the year 2050, our state needs a modern mass transportation system that is more efficient than asphalt highways and airlines. We are truly lucky to have this brand new system, and I hope that its success will stimulate the construction of similar high-speed rail projects throughout America. Today, with the arrival of this bullet train here at Gilroy’s Grand Central Station of the Central Coast, the future has indeed arrived in the South Valley.”
As the marching band plays “California Here I Come,” Diridon takes a giant pair of ceremonial scissors and, with the assistance of the local South Valley mayors, cuts a red ribbon crossing the track. Later, someone hands him a newspaper column published on August 15, 2008. Diridon reads the headline out loud: “High-speed rail is road to the future.”
Diridon scans the column and is amazed by the incredibly accurate predictions it provides of the day’s inauguration celebration. He tells the crowd, “Wow! The guy who wrote this must have been a psychic.”