We Can't Wait for California High Speed Rail
Los Angeles to San Francisco in under three hours by train?
It’s not just a dream. California has started building a 220-mph high-speed line to make this a reality.
But it will be much more than a way to speed between major cities.
With timed connections to California's excellent conventional trains and buses, high-speed rail will link hundreds of cities and towns across the state.
Voters approved this project and still strongly support it.
In June 2022, the California legislature approved $4.2 billion to continue construction, and state lawmakers should stay committed to getting this project done.
California is using the Integrated Network Approach. The high-speed line is being constructed in stages, progressively integrated into an already robust network of trains and buses. The United States built the Interstate network this way, and we can do it with modern trains as well.
With this approach, everyone begins to enjoy the benefits of high-speed rail—even before the entire route is complete. As each finished segment joins the network, it further reduces travel times and increases ridership across the system, not just between high-speed rail stations.
The ultimate goal is a thriving network of high-speed trains that 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 terrain to build long stretches of 220-mph track without tunneling
- an extensive network of connecting trains and buses already in place
- strong economy and thriving agribusiness sector
- an institutional web of dozens of colleges and universities
Sacramento should push to get electrified, high-speed trains in revenue service in this decade.
High-speed rail funding is being used to turn Silicon Valley's commuter-rail service, Caltrain, into the first true regional rail line in the U.S.
New, electrified trains will offer departures every 15 minutes throughout the day and reduced travel times.
Highway crossings are being seperated and new stations are being built.
High-speed trains from LA will use these tracks to access downtown San Francisco.
Sacramento should commit to modernizing Metrolink in Los Angeles as well.
The California High Speed Rail Authority has already gained environmental clearance on two critical, but difficult segments:
1) Pacheco Pass: This will be the first direct railroad link connecting San Jose to the Central Valley, slicing hours off today’s circuitous routing.
2) Tehachapi Pass: Bypassing the famed, but very slow, "Tehachapi Loop" and finally closing a gap in the Amtrak network.
Environmental review for a third segment, new tunnels through the Antelope Valley, is almost done as well.
This is huge progress, but it won't mean anything if the legislature doesn't fund the next steps.
Another important segment is ready to go. Brightline West has environmental clearance to construct a Las Vegas - Victor Valley segment of high-speed line. A connection to the LA - Silicon Valley high-speed line at Palmdale has been designed. A link over Cajon Pass is in the works.
Brightline West and California High Speed Rail will feed traffic back and forth, making each more valuable, and making the critical Tehechapi Pass crossing easier to finance.