The current route through the Tehachapi Mountains is not fit for passenger trains but it does include the famed Tehachapi Loop for freight trains. Credit: Don Barrett

Exciting news: One of the great dilemmas in the American railroad industry has been solved at long last.

Planners have gotten approval for a passenger-rail route through California’s Tehachapi Mountains—a huge obstacle to passenger trains for generations.

The current route between Bakersfield and Palmdale is too full with BNSF and Union Pacific freight trains to add passenger trains. And, it’s incredibly curvy. At one point, it doubles back on itself. A passenger train on this route would take more than 3 hours, versus 1.5 hours for driving.

The California High Speed Rail Authority’s proposed Bakersfield-Palmdale segment solves the problem by tunneling through the mountains, which slashes the trip time to about 25 minutes on a high-speed train.

The approval of the plan by the CHSRA’s board of directors last week clears the way for preliminary work to begin. It also positions the project to be eligible for federal infrastructure funding. That means a passenger-train connection between the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California—a route that’s been urgently needed for decades—could become a reality.

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