Documents Completed on the San Francisco Leg of the Bullet Train – Streetsblog California

The next step toward preparing the San Francisco to Merced section of the California high-speed rail project was taken on Friday with the completion of a required environmental study of the alignment. This all-important connection between the Central Valley and Silicon Valley has been “a long time coming and it’s an important step,” said Boris Lipkin, Northern California regional manager.

More than a hundred miles of right-of-way, including bridges, trenches and other large concrete structures, are nearing completion in the Central Valley between Bakersfield and Merced, where the system will connect into the short-term to existing Amtrak services to Oakland and Sacramento. While this “backbone” of the California system was under construction, the California High-speed Rail Authority carried out complex but necessary studies to complete the system to San Francisco and Los Angeles. With no funds on hand to complete the entire system at once – and with an administration hostile to Washington from 2016 to 2020 – the strategy was to have everything ready to be ready when a pro-rail administration returned to power. . Obviously, this happened when “Amtrak Joe” Biden was elected and the Democrats took control of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the end of 2020.

The “Final Environmental Impact Report for the San Jose to Merced Section of the Project”/
Environmental Impact Statement” authorizes the start of construction of the high-speed connection between the Central Valley and the Bay Area. Electrification and upgrades are already well advanced on the Caltrain main line, which will be shared with HSR, which means that when the Merced to San Jose section is completed, trains will also be able to travel directly to San Francisco (Caltrain is expected to start electrified service in two years).

Map, CaHSRA
Map, CaHSRA

And with the money available in the recently passed infrastructure bill, this document will put the project at the top of the list for federal funding. Currently, about $36 billion in federal subsidies will be available for passenger rail over the next five years. This will be offset by state sources, such as cap and trade. Another $10 billion, dedicated exclusively to high-speed rail, could be secured from Washington, as Democrats push to piece together a new spending plan from Build Back Better package failureexplained Andy Kunz of the US High Speed ​​Rail Association.

One of the biggest obstacles to completing the system remains State Assemblymen Anthony Rendon and Laura Friedman, who don’t seem to want the project to reach their own constituents in Los Angeles. Currently, they are withholding more than $4 billion in voter-approved bonds for the project, which was allocated by Governor Newsom but rejected by lawmakers.

Meanwhile, paperwork was completed for the Burbank section in Los Angeles in January. Bakersfield to Palmdale was released in August. And the draft document from Palmdale to Burbank is expected to be released shortly, finally completing all of the environmental documents from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

the Merced-San Jose Study will go to the California High Speed ​​Rail Authority Board for approval at a two-day meeting, April 20-21.

Jose P. Rogers