Our recent online coverage of some highway construction projects, such as the State Route 91 express lane expansion in Riverside County, prompted a reader to comment on the state of transportation in California, especially Southern California. And a lot of what he says makes a great deal of sense.

Jim Sullivan, who has worked in the construction industry for 35 years and on projects such as Interstate 105 (the Century Freeway), says, “High-speed trains may be another misguided rail project promoted to spark interest in the uneducated public, but may eventually be another failure to suppress real viable rail projects that make financial sense and responsibility.”

Sullivan says that one “very expensive train doesn’t make good public transportation sense when compared to a smaller grid of trolleys running from San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and Ventura out to Riverside. One fast train with 200 passengers, as opposed to 20 trolleys with thousands of passengers? The revenues would be tenfold with smaller trolleys in the most populated areas.

“Anyone working in engineering or construction knows the environmental pitfalls of large projects covering hundreds of miles of open land,” he says. “Those scenarios are well known in the industry and will only slow the building of large high-speed train projects to a crawl.” 

Sullivan says he laments the fact that public transportation entities and the construction industry in California are not being effective watchdogs when it comes establishing real public transportation options.

“What I mean is, all of us really taking a stand on establishing a fuel saving, effective and productive rail and trolley service in all of California,” he says. “The rest of the world has public transportation services that put us to shame. The underground metro projects have not done any of us justice; they are costly, and destructive in the back door deals that have been made in the past. It’s time for an above ground system… these systems are cheaper to build, save countless dollars in fuel costs, and help move people and commerce in a practical, effective way. These services are shown to pay for themselves, renew and rejuvenate older parts of towns.” 

Then Sullivan asks the ultimate question: “Does anyone ask why you cannot take a train or trolley into LAX, Burbank or John Wayne airports? That’s a travesty.”

Regarding the expansion of the express lanes on SR-91, Sullivan says a practical solution would be building a rail line right down the middle of the highway: “It would free up the traffic jams, not make a freeway expansion even necessary, and would help our environment and sanity.”