California High-Speed Rail
The California High-Speed Rail (HSR) project carried a $40 billion price tag when first approved by voters in 2008. Eight years later, the government authority running the project estimated it will cost $64 billion. A revised business plan issued in March 2018 upped the cost to $77 billion and pushed the project back five years to 2033.
As outlined in the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century,” the HSR project will build approximately 800 miles of track up and down the state, connecting together most of the state’s large cities with up to 24 different stations.
Phase 1 promises a 2-hour and 40-minute ride between San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal and Los Angeles’ Union Station.
The project is expected to open in legs. The first, connecting San Jose to the Central Valley, is scheduled to begin passenger service in 2025. The second leg – expected to open in 2029 – will build out tracks from San Jose to San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal, including a Peninsula stop in Millbrae; and south from Bakersfield to Anaheim, with stops in Palmdale, Downtown Los Angeles, and at Burbank Airport.
The proposed timeline on the later extensions of the project aren’t as definite, but the state plans to add a 110-mile Sacramento extension, connecting to Modesto and Stockton on its way, and a 167-mile segment that snakes east from Los Angeles through the San Gabriel Valley to the Inland Empire, and eventually down south to San Diego.
The High-Speed Rail Authority officially broke ground on the project in Fresno in 2015. Since then, construction crews have been working on a 119-mile segment of track in the Central Valley. Recently the rail authority reported $1.7 billion in cost overruns on the Central Valley segment.
As a measure to reduce project costs, the rail authority says it may abandon plans to build multi-million-dollar safety barriers near freight train tracks to prevent crashes and reduce the train’s speed in urban areas instead.
The California Legislature’s Audit Committee recently voted unanimously to audit the HSR Authority’s budget and expenditures.
Angelica Obioha, Infrastructure-Info Staff
KALW » People wanting to ride California’s high-speed railroad have been stymied by many project setbacks. But people attending the August 11th opening of the Salesforce Transit Center got the next best thing — a virtual reality experience simulating a high-speed rail journey, complete with stations and train car designs.
VC Star » Southern California officials have said few, if any, critical words about the state rail authority’s decision in 2016 to drop Los Angeles as the starting point of the first segment of the statewide bullet train. Rep. Alan Lowenthal broached the topic at a House rail subcommittee hearing on Thursday, asking state rail officials and other witnesses how he can justify the project to his constituents.
Federal Legislation & Regulation Congressional panel slates hearing on California high-speed rail project
Progressive Railroading » The House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials on Thursday will hold a field hearing in Sacramento, California, to review the status of the state’s high-speed rail project. The subcommittee will also examine the most recent modifications to the project’s business plan, which were released in June.
Construction Dive » The rail’s biggest hurdle, however, could come in the guise of a new governor who could oppose the project and pull the plug. Some onlookers say the reason that the authority is pushing so hard to finish portions of the bullet train line is so that it will be more difficult for the incoming administration to give up on it.
The New York Times » Far from the debates in Washington and Sacramento, the $100 billion Los Angeles-to-San Francisco bullet train has moved off the drawing board and onto 21 construction sites spread across five Central California counties. Work began two weeks ago on one of the more ambitious pieces of the project — an overpass that will carry trains over a major highway in Fresno — and ground will be broken on three more viaducts in the next few months.