Draft CAHSRA 2020 business plan
California Outlines Progress Toward North America's First High-Speed Rail System
“Electrified rail is advancing in all three regions of California—the Bay Area, Central Valley, and Southern California,” according to a draft of the 2020 Business Plan published by the California High Speed Rail Authority. Comments on it will be accepted through April 12.
The plan noted that construction is underway or will soon begin on 350 miles of high-speed rail: a 171-mile line in the Central Valley; 51 miles of electrified commuter rail in the Bay Area; and a 130-mile line being built by a private company between Las Vegas and San Bernardino County, California.
Work is now underway at 30 construction sites in the Central Valley. There are roughly 3,500 workers and 539 small businesses “engaged in building bridges, viaducts, grade separations and other high-speed rail infrastructure,” according to the report. “This transformation is happening, considerable progress is being made, and now is not the time to turn back,” wrote Brian Kelly, CEO of the Authority.
The plan also noted that the Authority has been a strong financial partner for commuter-rail upgrades in the Bay Area and Southern California, and “we will continue to be a full partner in the development of capital improvements necessary to develop the corridors our systems will share as electrified high-speed rail expands statewide.”
The Central Valley high-speed line, which is expected to be in operation by 2028, will cut travel times from Merced to Bakersfield by up to 100 minutes. The full line is projected to be in operation in 2040 and will slash travel times from the Bay Area to Los Angeles to under 3 hours—versus a 7- to 8-hour drive. The system will carry 40 million riders annually, and the greenhouse-gas reductions will be the equivalent of taking 400,000 cars off the road.
Amtrak Reports Record Ridership as Trump Administration Seeks Deep Cuts
The Trump administration’s 2021 federal budget blueprint slashes funding for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service from $700 million in 2020 to $325 million. It slashes funding for long-distance routes from $1.3 billion to $611 million. The budget cuts, which have little bi-partisan support or chance of actually being enacted by Congress, follow the administration’s pattern of seeking to disinvest in rail. Amtrak, meantime, reported 32.5 million customer trips in 2019, which is a year-over-year increase of 800,000 passengers and a record annual ridership.
New House Bill would Authorize $32 Billion in High-Speed Rail Funding
Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) has introduced a bill in the U.S. House that would authorize $32 billion in spending for the High Speed Rail Corridor Development Program. Since the program’s inception in 2008, Congress has appropriated $10.5 billion to finance projects in federally designated high-speed corridors. The $32 billion reauthorization for FY 2021-24 would fund projects that are part of a state rail plan; have environmental benefits; or encourage public-private partnerships, among other criteria. The bill currently has nine cosponsors.