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California High-Speed Rail Speeds Ahead

April 29, 2022

High-speed rail in California made significant progress this week.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority's Board of Directors approved four important milestones for the project, effecting every region along the line.

1. The San Jose to Merced Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

2. Modernization of Los Angeles Union Station

3. Design Process for Central Valley Stations

4. The 2022 Business Plan.

These are all important milestones in the effort to build the first high-speed rail network in the U.S, and we have more details.

San Jose to Merced Environmental Clearance
The environmentally cleared route from San Jose to Merced, which would be the first railroad crossing of the Pacheco Pass.

With the Board’s approval of the San Jose to Merced EIS, nearly 400 miles from San Francisco to Palmdale are environmentally cleared. The Authority can now move forward with pre-construction work and aggressively seek federal funding.

The approximately 90-mile section will connect the Central Valley to the Silicon Valley by way of the Pacheco Pass. This is the first railroad crossing of the Pacheco Pass, which will provide new economic opportunities and better mobility throughout the region.

With the approval of this EIS, the project is now environmentally cleared from San Francisco to Palmdale, in the Los Angeles area, and that’s a big reason to be excited.

Funding Approved for LA Union Station
An aerial perspective of the new concourse and through-tracks at LA Union Station.

The Board also approved a multi-million dollar funding and planning agreement with LA Metro to modernize and expand LA Union Station through the Link Union Station Project. The Link US project will prepare the station for future high-speed trains by converting the station from a stub-end to a run-through station and dramatically increasing capacity. By devoting Authority funds to this project, it shows that they remain committed to connecting LA to the rest of the network. With these improvements, the station will become a major hub for high-speed rail and transit in the Los Angeles basin.

Board Agrees to Begin Designing Four Central Valley Stations
Rendering of the Bakersfield high-speed rail station.

The Board unanimously approved moving forward with the design process for the four stations in the Central Valley: Merced, Fresno, Kings-Tulare, and Bakersfield. The Authority will be accepting statements of qualification from engineering firms, with an expectation that a firm will be chosen in the Fall. Officials from Fresno, Merced, and Bakersfield voiced their support for moving forward with this work and spoke about the transformational impact of this project.

The station in downtown Fresno “will bring positive changes to Fresno, likely on a scale not seen since the city was founded in 1872 by the Central Pacific Railroad Company. The resulting economic development for our community, and the state, mean the importance of properly funding and resourcing the design element is critical,” said John Ellis, government affairs manager for Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer.

2022 Business Plan Approved
Current status of the segments making up California's high-speed rail network.

The California High Speed Rail Authority’s 2022 Business Plan, which the Authority is required to update every two years, was also approved at this week’s board meeting. The business plan breaks down how the Authority plans to get the first high-speed trains into operation and how they will deliver a 2 hour 40 minute trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The next steps as outlined in the 2022 Business Plan:

  • Begin operating high-speed trains between Merced, Fresno, and Bakersfield as soon as possible.
  • Continue advancing engineering and design work on every project segment.
  • Make targeted investments in shared corridors statewide, to provide immediate benefits to existing users.
  • Create a long-term funding strategy to complete high-speed rail construction from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

It's exciting to see progress in California this week towards a truly statewide network. The Authority's Board of Directors took action pertaining to every region along the line at their meeting, and this puts the project in a strong position moving forward. Now we need the California Legislature to take advantage of this situation by appropriating the remaining $4.2 billion in voter-approved funds and to push for the completion of this transformational project.