California’s High Speed Rail Phasing Plan

California HSR San Joaquin River Viaduct
A map of the extensive Amtrak and Thruway bus network linking most of California.

Segments of 220-mph high-speed line will be coordinated with California’s extensive network of trains and buses.

Boosting an Already Robust Network

California is taking the Integrated Network Approach to its high-speed rail system – meaning that segments of high-speed line will be added to the state’s already robust network of trains and buses over time.

Feeder buses are timed to meet trains at many stations, with passengers using a single ticket for both parts of the trip. Commuter rail and local bus networks extend the reach to most of the state.

An innovative state rail plan is being used to coordinate actions of the California High Speed Rail Authority and many transit agencies as improvements are made.

As a coordinated network, every train and bus route will see a big boost in ridership, as segments of high-speed line are finished.

High-speed rail stations will be built to make transferring between high-speed trains, conventional trains and feeder buses quick and easy.

Most of the system has environmental clearance

Just as the Interstate Highway network was built in segments over several decades, California’s high speed rail network will be built in segments.

The timing of those segments is driven in large part by mountain ranges and funding availability.

The Central Valley and Silicon Valleys segments are under construction.

The planning and environmental documents for the remaining segments are expected to be approved this year. Then, the state can seek additional funds to expedite construction of the remaining sections.

Here is a quick overview of each segment and its status.

The California High Speed Rail Authority has a more in-depth overview of the segments on its website

A map showing the Central Valley and Silicon Valley segments under construction. and most of the rest of the system has environmental clearance.

Two Segments are Under Construction

The Central Valley

Bakersfield – Fresno – Merced

Under Construction

The first, 170-mile segment of high-speed line—the backbone of the whole system—is now being built in the Central Valley. It is the best place to demonstrate the power of high-speed trains. Its opening will be coordinated with improvements to existing passenger rail and feeder bus networks.

Click here to learn more

The Silicon Valley

San Francisco – San Jose

Under Construction

Existing Caltrain service from San Jose to San Francisco will be electrified and upgraded, which will allow high-speed trains to share tracks with new, high-performance commuter trains.

Click here to learn more

One Big Segment is Ready to Go

Brightline West:

Las Vegas – Rancho Cucamonga

Ready for construction

Brightline West is poised to begin construction. The initial design was developed by a major casino owner and gained environmental clearance in 2009.

The new Las Vegas station will be built near McCarren Airport as part of a hotel and casino complex.  The Rancho Cucamonga station will allow an easy transfer to Metrolink.

Learn More

The Mountain Passes Have Environmental Clearance

Pacheco Pass – closing the northern gap

San Jose – Merced

Environmental Approval Complete

Connecting the Central Valley directly to Silicon Valley and San Francisco will require tunneling through the mountain range that separates them. The Pacheo Pass does not currently have railroad tracks.

In the interim, a connecting Amtrak bus began operating in 2020.

Tehachapi Pass – closing the southern gap

Bakersfield – Palmdale

Environmental approval complete

The Tehachapi Mountains pose a major barrier to creating a north-south passenger rail connection, a glaring missing piece of the California network. Freight trains cross the mountains on the famed Tehachapi Loop, a slow but busy single-track railroad that lacks the capacity for passenger trains. So, an extensive network of buses connects Bakersfield to cities throughout the Los Angeles area and the High Desert. These buses can be enhanced until the mountain crossing can be constructed.

Los Angeles Metro Area

Antelope Valley

Palmdale – Burbank

Environmental clearance underway

The California High Speed Rail Authority has chosen the preferred routing for this challenging section, much of which will be in tunnels.

Metrolink’s Antelope Valley line could be upgraded as an interim solution.

High Desert Corridor

Victorville – Palmdale

Environmental clearance underway

The High Desert JPA is designing a connection between Brightline at Victorville to Palmdale where it could connect with the Metrolink Antelope Valley line and the Los Angeles – San Francisco high-speed line when it is built.

Burbank – Los Angeles

Burbank Airport – Los Angeles Union station

Environmental Clearance Approved

This segment begins at a new underground station adjacent to a new airport terminal that will replace the existing terminal.  Two new, electrified tracks will be built alongside the existing freight tracks.

Los Angeles – Anaheim

Los Angeles – Anaheim

Environmental approval underway

This segment will share right of way with busy freight tracks used to access the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  The existing three-track mainline will be re-built with two tracks with overhead wires and two tracks without.  Freights will primarily use the two non-electrified tracks, but will also share the electrified tracks.

Future Segments

Inland Empire

Los Angeles – Rancho Cucamonga – Bakersfield

Future Segment

This segment is officially part of “phase 2” and planning will begin after the Los Angeles – San Francisco spine is complete.  However, building new electrified tracks on this segment will become more urgent as Brightline West begins construction.

Sacramento – Stockton

Future Segment

A new high-speed line will be designed as construction wraps up on the Los Angeles – San Francisco spine.

In the interim, negotiations are underway to electrify a secondary Union Pacific line between Sacramento and Stockton to allow for high-frequency ACE commuter trains and high-speed trains, similar to Caltrain.

Inland Empire – San Diego

Bakersfield – San Diego

Future Segment

This segment is part of “phase 2” and planning will begin after the Los Angeles – San Francisco spine is complete.

Stockton – Merced

Future Segment

A new high-speed line will be designed as construction wraps up on the Los Angeles – San Francisco spine.

In the interim, the Union Pacific is being upgraded to extend ACE commuter rail from Stockton to Merced. The Stockton – Ceres segment is under construction now.

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A dude is using an IPad on a station platform wth a high-speed train in the background.

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