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Climate Action Alert: Zero-Emission CA High Speed Rail At Risk

April 19, 2021
High Speed Rail Alliance, Elected Officials, Environmentalists, and Voters urge Legislature to Appropriate Remaining Prop 1A funds in Upcoming Budget

For Immediate Release: April 16, 2021

Contact: Thea Selby (415) 309 9410

The national nonprofit High Speed Rail Alliance (HSRA) today kicks off a week of action preceding Earth Day, focused on the work being done in California for High-Speed Rail and its climate impact. California is NOT on track to meet the state’s 2030 goals for greenhouse gas emissions, and building out high speed rail infrastructure in the state is critical for taking cars off the roads and changing travel patterns for a sustainable, green future. 

“As youth climate leaders, we understand the incredible urgency of taking action to protect our climate and our future. High-speed rail is a key part of fighting the climate crisis by moving to sustainable modes of transportation,” stated Monica Mallon, Youth Leader of the Transit Team of Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action.

HSRA is calling on elected officials, environmental justice organizations and voters of California to make their voices heard, and asks Californians, as Earth Day 2021 approaches, to focus on tangible actions to help the state reach targeted greenhouse gas reductions by 2030. 

“Completing the first segment of high-speed rail is the single most important thing that California is doing to meet its ambitious climate goals,” stated Rod Diridon, former Santa Clara County Supervisor and Retired Executive Director Emeritus of the Mineta Transportation Institute.

The first segment of high-speed rail is already under construction in California’s Central Valley -- from Bakersfield to Merced. Soon, the state legislature will vote to approve the remaining $4.2B from Prop 1A bond funds to complete the first segment of true high-speed rail--220 mph--in the United States. Without approval of this appropriation by the Legislature, high speed rail in California stops, and all the work and investment that has already been made in this infrastructure and the jobs created from it thus far will be squandered.

“Given the climate crisis and future needs of our state, I hope our Legislature moves forward with high speed rail in California by approving the remaining funding for its first segment," said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco). “The voters asked for it, and they deserve it, and there is no better way to get the trains going between San Francisco and Los Angeles than by finishing the backbone. This vision and promise to Californians are now long overdue."

The Bakersfield to Merced high-speed line gives the state the chance to achieve its' 2030 goals by connecting California cities and enabling rapid, emissions-free travel throughout the state, eventually resulting in end-to-end San Francisco to Los Angeles service. High speed rail in California will result in major benefits for climate, green jobs, and clean air.

Benefits include:

  • Working towards a Zero-Emission Future. The high-speed rail line will use fully electrified trains that run on 100% renewable electricity. The California Air Resource Board estimates that, even with a very high take-up of electric cars, we will need a transformational shift to public transportation to make our green house gas emissions reductions goals. 
  • Investing in Clean High Speed Rail Instead of Highways and Airports Which Lead to Harmful Emissions That Worsen Our Climate Disaster. It is estimated that HSR from Los Angeles to San Francisco will prevent the need for an additional 4,300 miles of new highway lanes, 115 new airport gates, and 4 new airport runways—at a cost of about $158 billion—according to the California High Speed Rail Authority. 

  • Taking Cars Off the Road to Cut Harmful Emissions. This will reduce vehicle miles traveled in passenger cars by 283.6 million annually, and save 50,600 metric tons of CO2 from being emitted. The construction of the CAHSR will also create thousands of green jobs, especially in the Central Valley region which has been economically marginalized and has the highest unemployment in the state.

  • Climate Justice and Equity-Focused. The Central Valley has some of the worst air quality in the United States, resulting in 1 in 2 children having asthma. A large contributor of this pollution is cars and diesel trucks. Reducing the number of vehicles on the roads will go a long way in improving the pollution and health impacts in this region.

HSRA Executive Director Rick Harnish added, "Earth Day is about celebrating how we are all connected to each other around the world. California is connecting to the rest of the world by building high speed rail--a clean and green alternative to short-trip airplane rides and inefficient cars. High Speed Rail Alliance applauds California's commitment to completing the first segment of true 220-mph line, and agrees with California Governor Newsom--as California goes, so goes the nation."


The transportation nonprofit calls for supporters in California to do three things this week: 

  1. Write to Your Assemblymember: Use this form to send to Sacramento lawmakers
  2. Put out a tweet and a Facebook post to vocalize your support - Suggested Tweet and Post
  3. Urge your friends and colleagues to join you in supporting this environmental initiative

Additional resources:

The High Speed Alliance is a membership-supported 501(c)(3) non-profit, and we are the nation’s largest and most seasoned high-speed rail advocacy organization. For more information about the organization, please contact Executive Director Rick Harnish at