Report: California High-Speed Rail Unlikely To Create 1 Million Jobs

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California High-Speed Rail

Rendering of a high-speed rail train. (CA High-Speed Rail Authority)

SAN JOSE (CBS / AP) — Backers of a plan to build a high-speed rail system from Sacramento to San Diego have inflated the number of jobs the project would generate by as many as 50 times, according to a published report.

State leaders hoping to secure federal funding have repeatedly said the railroad would produce one million jobs.

However, the San Jose Mercury News reported Wednesday that the railroad would create an average of 20,000 to 60,000 jobs during the 22 years it’s expected to be under construction.

The discrepancy, according to the newspaper, came about because officials counted each year a construction worker remained employed on the project as a separate job.

But counting one worker’s 10 years of employment as 10 separate jobs is not usually how job figures are arrived at for large public works projects, the newspaper said.

“Job-years and jobs are like apples and Twinkies, they’re not even in the same food group,” said Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of a rail watchdog group called Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design. “It’s not accurate, and it’s misleading.”

Officials also assumed that every construction job would generate enough economic activity to add two outside jobs.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s jobs czar, Michael Rossi, told the Mercury News “there was no plan to mislead anyone by manipulating the numbers.”

California’s high-speed rail plan is on pace to become to the most expensive public works project for any state in U.S. history. After voters approved a bond measure to fund it in 2008, its $33 billion price tag has nearly tripled.

Dan Richard, a Brown appointee to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board, said officials could do a better job explaining job projections, but the bottom line for most Californians is that the project would ease unemployment.

“It’s absolutely fair that we should be more disciplined about that going forward, Richard said. “At the end of the day, I don’t know if it really changes anything. The bottom line is if you’re unemployed, you don’t care if it’s jobs or job-years.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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