The high-speed train gets a little closer to reality

By Eli Walsh

Bay City News Foundation

The state may soon open the first Bay Area segment of California’s high-speed rail system after the High-Speed ​​Rail Authority’s board of directors certified final environmental documents for the Merced- San Jose rail system.

The board voted unanimously on April 28 to certify the environmental impact report for the approximately 90-mile stretch, which is the first green section of the Northern California high-speed rail project. in addition to the Bay Area.

The project was launched in 2008 when voters approved a $9.95 billion bond measure to support statewide high-speed rail, which was originally slated to cost around $30 billion and be completed by 2030.

High-Speed ​​Rail Authority officials have been working on environmental clearance for the Merced-San Jose section since 2009.

“(This) approval represents another major milestone and brings us closer to delivering high-speed rail between Silicon Valley and Central Valley,” said High-Speed ​​Rail Authority CEO Brian Kelly, in a statement last week. “The authority is poised to make the vision of high-speed rail in the Bay Area a reality.”

A 119-mile stretch of the rail system that will eventually stretch about 500 miles is currently being built in the Central Valley, with the first segment expected to be completed next year, the California High-Speed ​​CEO said. Rail Authority, Brian Kelly, in March. .

The 119-mile stretch from Madera to Wasco that is currently under construction will later be extended to include Merced and Bakersfield.

This 175-mile section of the project is on track to be operational by the end of the decade. Rail service would then slowly expand to the system’s end terminals in San Francisco and Anaheim.

Since 2008, the price has soared north of $100 billion, and High-Speed ​​Rail Authority officials have yet to say where most of the funding will come from to complete the first phase connecting San Francisco and Anaheim, not to mention a second phase that would add connections between Merced and Sacramento and Los Angeles and San Diego.

How the Merced-San Jose section will be funded is also to be determined, but High-Speed ​​Rail Authority officials said completed environmental clearance will ensure construction can begin immediately once funding is secured. .

Overall, environmental impact reports have been approved for nearly 400 miles of the first 500-mile phase.

When completed, the Merced-San Jose section will connect the former’s existing rail infrastructure to Diridon Station in San Jose.

Train speeds are expected to reach up to 220 mph and traveling from Fresno to San Jose will only take an hour instead of the current three hours by car, according to the High-Speed ​​Rail Authority.

In addition to the EIR, the council also approved a plan to upgrade the rail corridor between San Jose and Gilroy, which will add electrification infrastructure and eventually allow high-speed rail travel and Caltrain service to expand. in Monterey County.

Jose P. Rogers