High-speed train to San Francisco gets environmental clearance

The California High-Speed ​​Rail Authority Board last week approved the final environmental impact report for the proposed high-speed rail route between San Jose and San Francisco.

What is happening: Thursday’s vote means 420 miles of the train’s 500-mile route from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area has removed environmental barriers, allowing railroad officials to “begin advanced design work”, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Details: Under the approved plan, the high-speed train would share electrified Caltrain tracks between Diridon Station in San Jose and Fourth and King Street Station in San Francisco.

  • Eventually, the San Francisco station would move to the Salesforce Transit Center.
  • There are also plans for an SFO/Millbrae stop.
  • The road could open as early as 2033.

The plot: In previous plans, railway officials considered laying separate high-speed tracks across the peninsula, “but this effort was abandoned years ago due to opposition from property owners in the wealthy region” , said the Chronicle Notes.

  • Speeds from San Jose to San Francisco could reach 110 mph, which is faster than Caltrain’s 79 mph.
  • When traveling through less populated areas of the state, the train should reach over 220 mph.

Why is this important: The project innovated in 2015 in the Central Valley. But for the high-speed rail to deliver on its promise of connecting people across the state to better-paying jobs, it will need to complete stretches to major cities, including SF to the north and LA to the south.

Yes, but: While the environmental approval shows positive momentum, the project still faces major challenges. Namely, as the written chronicle“California hasn’t figured out where it will get up to $25 billion needed to build the San Francisco and Silicon Valley high-speed rail extensions.”

  • Without more funding, the project, which skeptics have double “the train to nowhere”, would likely be limited to within the state, running from Bakersfield to Merced.

Driving the news: In 2008, California voters approved nearly $10 billion to build a high-speed train that could ferry people between San Francisco and Los Angeles in less than three hours.

  • Initially, the high-speed trains were to start operating in 2020, with a project price of $33 billion.
  • Now, 2029 could be the first departure of trains from their Central Valley stations, and estimated costs have soared to at least $105 billion.

And after: Fund raising.

  • Currently, California is while searching an additional $8 billion in federal funding, which could happen given the passage of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill last year, which included $108 billion for public transportation.
  • The state could also ask California voters to approve more funding, the Chronicle said.

Jose P. Rogers