The Central Valley: Where High Speed Rail Begins

America’s first true high-speed line is under construction in California’s Central Valley.

Backbone of a Statewide Network

California is building a 220-mph high-speed line to link Los Angeles to San Francisco in under 3 hours.

The first 171-mile segment, from Merced to Bakersfield, is under construction.

It is the center of California’s integrated network plan for high-speed rail, regional rail, and buses and will directly serve a densely populated region that’s about the size of South Carolina.

It’s a great place to demonstrate the power of 220-mph high-speed trains for the first time in the U.S.

A section of high-speed line under construction in the Central Valley.

The Kimerlina Viaduct just south of Wasco, CA.

A Map showing most of the bus and train routes that will see improvement from the Central Valley high-speed line.

Why the Central Valley?

The ultimate goal is a thriving network of high-speed and regional trains to link all of California. Getting there requires a solid foundation and a starting point with statewide impact.

That’s exactly what the Central Valley segment delivers:

  • Population of 4 million people
  • Flat enough to build long stretches of 220-mph track without drilling tunnels
  • An extensive network of connecting trains and buses already in place

Advanced planning is completed for connecting the Central Valley to the Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.

Learn more about the other segments

First Phase Outcomes

The Central Valley segment will have huge benefits on its own and is the foundation for the whole system.

90 minutes Merced-Bakersfield

The trip time from Bakersfield to Merced will be cut in half from today’s three-hour Amtrak trip.

18 daily roundtrips

The number of daily departures will more than double from Amtrak’s 7 per day.

Two Amtrak Thruway buses in the Bakersfield Station.

More connecting services

All of the train and bus routes that connect with the Central Valley stations will see more daily departures.  Most will double.

A conceptual rendering of a new high speed rail station in Fresno.

New Stations

New stations will be built at Bakersfield, Tulare, Fresno and Merced.

Statewide Impact

The Central Valley line will have ripple-out effects across the entire state. It will boost ridership on the buses and trains that connect the line to the Bay Area and Los Angeles, by shortening all train trips between northern and southern California.

Riders of the connecting routes will benefit from increased frequencies, even if they don’t actual use the Central Valley segment.

It is estimated that the network’s ridership and revenue will roughly double, while the state’s contribution to ongoing operating expenses will decline by $20 million a year.

These benefits—more ridership, more revenue, and lower costs—will build the political will needed to build the new connections across the Pacheco and  Tehachapi Passes.


The Central Valley segment will double the performance of the existing network.

National Impacts – Today and Tomorrow

As the first high-speed line under construction, the Central Valley line is breaking ground for future high-speed lines.  For example:

  • Forcing changes to outdated federal regulations. For example, railroads can now run light trainsets that start and stop faster than heavier trains.
  • Teaching lessons that can be applied to new projects across the North American context.
  • Creating and sustaining a supply chain for domestic high-speed rail manufacturers.
A drone shot of the 4,740-foot long San Joaquin River Viaduct

The nearly complete 4,740-foot long San Joaquin River Viaduct – one of the most recognizable Central Valley construction projects – is ready for tracks and high-speed trains.

A overhead view of a new highway bridge over a four-lane highway, a railroad and the new right-of-way for the California high-speed line.

The new Merced Avenue overpass takes traffic over SR 43, as well as BNSF and future high-speed rail lines.

A federal program is needed to get it done.

California is far ahead of the rest of the country in developing high-speed and regional rail. But they are unique. Most of their routes do not cross state lines.

Most states will require an Interstate Railway Program to build multi-state networks. And California cannot achieve its full potential without a federally-led program.

The recent Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Law is a great step in the right direction. Much more needs to be done.

Please join us in asking Congress to create an Interstate Railway Program.

Related Content

California High Speed Rail rendering Central Valley

California State Page

California is at the forefront of high-speed and regional rail

A section of high-speed line under construction in the Central Valley.

California is Building High-Speed Rail

A new high-speed line linking Los Angeles to San Francisco will be a game-changer for the most aggressive state rail program in the country.

A new Caltrain EMu is parked at San Jose Ca station for public tours.

Caltrain: Transforming Regional Rail

Caltrain, the Silicon Valley’s railroad, is being modernized to be the first true regional rail line in the U.S.

Ca State Rail Plan Final Map 2018

California Integrated Plan

The visionary California rail plan will produce a stunning increase in ridership and revenue.

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

Take Action

The country needs an Interstate Railway Program, like the Interstate Highway Program, to take full advantage of the community, economic, and environmental benefits of trains.

Please join with us in asking Congress to create a national railway program to re-connect America with fast, frequent, and affordable trains.

Sign the Petition