CALIFORNIA's HIGH SPEED RAIL system
The California High Speed Rail Authority (the Authority) plans to construct the California high-speed rail network in phases, building outward from the state’s Central Valley and progressively connecting to major population centers in the north and south. The challenge of crossing several mountain ranges north and south of the Central Valley was a major determining factor in developing project phasing and beginning construction in the Central Valley. The revised plan retains the start of construction of new high-speed infrastructure in the Central valley, but introduces simultaneous investments to produce immediate benefits throughout the state.
Blended Service. The newest business plan released by the Authority includes a series of improvements to Amtrak and commuter routes that will connect to the initial Central Valley section, creating better service throughout the state in the near term and providing a platform for continued improvement upgrades to high-speed rail in the future. This approach of leveraging existing systems and tying them together with a high-speed rail backbone is called "blended service".
Implementation Steps. The business plan groups goals and investments into an implementation strategy with five key steps. The first step includes constructing new high-speed track in the Central Valley, upgrading commuter rail and Amtrak service in the system "bookends", and working to close the gap between Los Angeles and Palmdale through the Tahachapi Mountains. The second step includes beginning operational service for 220-mph trains and extending high-speed track construction to Modesto in the north and Silvia/Burbank in the south. The third step builds a new high-speed direct connection between the Central Valley and the Silicone Valley. Later steps complete the high-speed network.
We have included a map to follow along with these descriptions. Click here to download the draft business plan.
Step 1 - Early Investments, Statewide Benefits
Early investments include leveraging a number of existing systems and new construction in the Central Valley that will allow the system to deliver early benefits. This includes:
Construction Begins in the Central Valley
The first section of high-speed track (the ICS) will be built in the Central Valley. This will be the backbone of the entire system and is key to its success in connecting southern California to the Bay Area. The ICS will comprise a new 130-mile trunk line in the Central Valley running from just north of Fresno to Bakersfield. This project will result in all-new dedicated, grade-separated track designed for 220-mph operations. Express trains running at top speeds could cover this section in only 40 minutes.
Northern California Unified Service
Coordinated, simultaneous improvements to existing rail systems, including the Altamont Commuter Express, the Capitol Corridor and the San Joaquin service, will provide new, expanded, and improved rail service throughout northern California, connecting the Central Valley with the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento regions. The Northern California Unified Service is in purple on this map.
When construction in the Central Valley and upgrades of existing systems are complete and operational in 2018, it will cut travel times between Bakersfield and Sacramento by at least 40 minutes.
CalTrain Electrification – San Jose to San Francisco
Existing CalTrain service from San Jose to San Francisco on the peninsula will be electrified and upgraded to allow high-speed trains to share tracks with new, high-performance commuter trains. CalTrain and the Authority are sharing the cost of this project. This project is key to linking San Francisco and the Silicon Valley to the rest of the state's rail network.
Tehachapi Crossing – Closing the Gap
South of Bakersfield, at the southern end of the Initial Construction Segment, the Tehachapi Mountains are a major barrier to creating a north-south passenger rail connection. The Union Pacific’s crossing of these mountains contains the famed Tehachapi Loop, a slow but busy single-track railroad without the capacity for passenger trains. Today, Amtrak passengers use connecting buses between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. Te
As part of the construction of the Initial Operating Segment (IOS), work will begin on closing the gap between Bakersfield and Palmdale, through the Tehachapi Mountains. Environmental clearance to begin work on this section could be possible in early 2014. California has set $4 billion aside to construct this segment and will aggressively seek matching funds.
Los Angeles Basin
The Authority is coordinating with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) and other agencies on a number of projects that will improve service in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. Specifically, the LACMTA has been working on a strategic analysis of the Metrolink Antelope Valley commuter line that connects Los Angeles' Union Station with Palmdale. Improvements to the Antelope Valley line from Los Angeles to Palmdale will be will be a high priority, ensuring sufficient Metrolink commuter service to meet the needs of the HSR system as it reaches Palmdale.
Step 2 – Initial Operating Segment
Under the current plan, true high-speed operations begin when the new track is extended north to Merced and South to a new transfer station near Burbank. Projections show this segment would be operationally self-sufficient. If further analysis suggests a shorter segment will be self-sufficient, high-speed operations could start sooner. This high-speed service also has the potential for continued integration with the entire California passenger rail network.
Step 3 – Bay to Basin
A mountain range separates the Central Valley from the important Silicon Valley and beyond to San Francisco. Step 3 would involve a new high-speed line west through the Pacheco Pass. There is no railroad across this pass today. The northern point of this construction section would be San Jose where trains would continue in blended service to San Francisco.
Step 4 – The Phase 1 System
Dedicated high-speed tracks would be extended from Burbank to Los Angeles Union Station connecting to upgraded service to Anaheim.
Step 5 – The Phase 2 System
Phase 2 extends the high-speed infrastructure to Sacramento and San Diego. Once complete and operational, passengers can travel on high-speed trains from San Francisco/Sacramento to Los Angeles/San Diego on a one-seat ride.
Connection to DesertXpress
At Palmdale, just south of Lancaster, the proposed 63-mile High Desert Corridor freeway would link Palmdale with Victorville, the southern terminus of another planned high-speed rail project for the region: the DesertXpress line to Las Vegas, Nevada. The expressway right-of-way could include high-speed rail tracks linking the DesertXpress with California’s main high-speed rail system. The DesertXpress has received full environmental clearance and the developers are working to assemble financing.