California High-Speed Rail
Artist's rendering of a TGV-Type California High-Speed Rail trainset with livery; this type of train is used in all CHSRA materials, but since the exact model of trainset to be acquired is not known, this is only illustrative
|Area served||Cities of the San Francisco peninsula, Santa Clara Valley, major population centers of the San Joaquin Valley, Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, & Los Angeles Basin|
|Locale||State of California|
|Transit type||High-speed rail|
|Number of stations||24 (proposed)|
|Chief executive||Jeff Morales|
|Operator(s)||A private operator to be determined|
|System length||800+ mi (1,300+ km) (proposed)|
|No. of tracks||fully double-tracked plus 2 extra pass-through tracks in stations|
220 mph (350 km/h) from San Jose to LA (about 422 mi (679 km))
California High-Speed Rail is a high-speed rail system currently under construction in the state of California. In Phase 1, the route will connect Los Angeles with San Francisco at speeds up to 220 miles per hour (350 km/h), providing a "one-seat ride" for the trip in 2 hours and 40 minutes for the non-stop trip. The system is required to operate without a subsidy, and to connect the state's major cities in the Bay Area, Central Valley, and Southern California. In Phase 2, which has no timetable yet, the routes will be extended in the Central Valley north to Sacramento and south from Los Angeles to San Diego via the Inland Empire. Preliminary planning work for this phase is ongoing.
In 2015 construction of the Initial Construction Segment (ICS) began north of Madera in the Central Valley, and will run south to Bakersfield, continue to Palmdale in the high desert, and then terminate in Burbank in the San Fernando Valley.
Once the Merced to Bakersfield tracks are laid in 2019, it is planned that the Amtrak San Joaquin train will use them for faster service. The Initial Operating Section (Merced to Burbank) is planned to open for high-speed rail service in 2022.
With an anticipated construction and planning cost of $68.4 billion (in year-of-expenditure dollars) for Phase 1, the project is the most expensive public works project in United States history. Its cost and scope have been major points of contention, and the project has had to contend with a number of lawsuits seeking to stop it, but thus far they have only delayed it. A lawsuit that succeeds before 2019 is not likely to stop various projects already underway, but might delay or even halt a dedicated HSR service in the state. Construction is only fully funded through 2019, although the project is now automatically getting cap-and-trade funding amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
The project is managed by CHSRA (the California High-Speed Rail Authority), a state agency run by a board of governors.
- 1 History
- 2 Current status
- 3 Future plans
- 4 Anticipated benefits
- 5 Criticisms and reviews
- 6 Public support
- 7 Additional information in the press
- 8 See also in Wikipedia
- 9 References
- 10 External links
- 11 Citations
Governor Jerry Brown has long been an advocate of a high-speed rail system for California. In his first two terms as governor (1975-1983) he signed legislation into law for the study of a high-speed rail system. In 1992 in his run for the Presidency he continued to show his support for it. Then, in 1993 the Intercity High-Speed Rail Commission was created to conduct studies and prepare plans.
At the Federal level, in 1992 the San Francisco – Los Angeles rail corridor was proposed in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act as one of five high speed rail corridors.
In 1996 the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), was established to begin formal planning in preparation for a ballot measure in 1998 or 2000. The ballot measure was originally scheduled to be put before voters in the 2004 general election; however, the state legislature voted twice to move it back, first to 2006, and finally to 2008 when 52.7% of voters approved the issuing of $9 billion in bonds for high speed rail in Proposition 1A.
The US Congress enacted the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), which among other things required the states to develop passenger rail plans. In May 2013, the California DOT released its 2013 State Rail Plan. This helped provide a new perspective that viewed the HSR project as the backbone of a statewide rail modernization plan. This has been used by the Authority in allocating funds to other state rail systems that support passenger rail goals and feed into the HSR system.
The cost estimate of the San Francisco-to-Anaheim route was originally estimated in 2008 to be about $33 billion. Upon further investigation, however, the Authority determined that a route using exclusive trackage along its entire length would be extremely expensive (estimated at over $96 billion), so they saw a need to share track in the metropolitan areas of the San Francisco Peninsula and the LA Basin. Thus, their perspective changed from a stand-alone HSR system to one where HSR would share commuter rails (a "blended" system) to both save money and improve all passenger rail needs. (Note that the 2012 Revised Business Plan listed a new estimate for a Full Build option for a cumulative cost of $91.4 billion and completion date of 2033.)
The Revised 2012 Business Plan listed new estimates (in cumulative year-of-expenditure costs) for the new blended system: Initial Operating System in 2021 for a total of $31.3 billion, Bay to Basin in 2026 for a total of $51.2 billion, and Phase 1 Blended in 2028 for a total of $68.4 billion.
PropositIon 1A bonds. On November 4, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A, a measure to construct the initial segment of the network. The measure authorized $9.95 billion in bond sales for the construction of the core segment between San Francisco and Los Angeles/Anaheim, and an additional $950 million for improvements on local railroad systems, which will serve as feeder systems to the planned high-speed rail system.
Federal funding. On October 2, 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled California's official application for ARRA (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) high-speed rail stimulus funding. The total amount of the application was $4.7 billion, representing more than half of the federal $8 billion allocated for high-speed rail. On January 28, 2010, the White House announced that California would receive $2.35 billion of its request, of which $2.25 billion was allocated specifically for California High Speed Rail, while the rest was designated for conventional rail improvements.
On October 28, 2010, the federal government awarded the Authority a further $900 million for passenger rail improvements, including $715 million specifically for the high-speed rail project, but with the requirement that it be used for the Central Valley segments from Merced to Fresno, or Fresno-to-Bakersfield.
On December 9, 2010, the federal Department of Transportation reallocated $1.2 billion in high-speed rail funding from states that had rejected it. Of this, $624 million was redirected to the Authority for use on the Initial Construction Section.
On May 9, 2011, the federal Department of Transportation reallocated an additional $2 billion in federal high-speed rail funding from Florida, which had rejected it. The DOT awarded $300 million to the Authority for a 20-mile (32 km) extension from Merced north to the Chowchilla Wye.
Beginning construction funds. On July 6, 2012, the California legislature approved construction of high-speed system, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill on July 18. The funding approved includes $4.5 billion in bonds previously approved by voters, which, in turn, freed up $3.2 billion in federal funding that would otherwise have expired after July 6. $2.6 billion was allocated to build the Initial Construction Segment. Funding was also to be used for several "bookend" and connectivity projects designed to integrate the future high-speed rail system with existing local and regional rail lines. The plan estimates final cost at Year-Of-Expenditure (YOE) $68 billion for Phase 1.
Cap-and-trade funds. In June 2014 state legislators and Governor Jerry Brown agreed on apportioning the state's annual cap-and-trade funds so that 25% goes to high speed rail (under the authority of CHSRA) and 15% goes to other transportation projects by other agencies. The 9 quarterly cap-and-trade auctions between Nov. 2012 and Feb. 2015 showed a generally increasing auction settlement price (ranging from $10.00 per unit to $12.10 per unit), and totaling $969 million. The state's Legislative Analyst's Office estimated that cap-and-trade income in 2015 and 2016 could total $3.7 billion, of which $925 million would be allocated to HSR. Thus, the HSR share could be half a billion (or more) each year.  This will provide a significant ongoing annual income stream for the project which is independent of legislative funding battles and grant applications.
For 2014 and 2015, the cap-and-trade funds allocated to HSR amounted to $750 million. In addition, the Authority can take an additional $400 million as "repayment of a loan that Brown's fiscal 2013-14 general fund budget borrowed from cap-and-trade revenues."
Route and travel time requirements
AB 3034, the authorizing legislation for Proposition 1A (which was submitted to the voters and approved), specified certain route and travel time requirements. Among these were that the route must (1) link downtown San Francisco with Los Angeles and Anaheim, and (2) link the state's major population centers together "including Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego." Also, the first phase of the project must link San Francisco with Los Angeles and Anaheim.
As regards train speed and travel times, the train must also be electric and capable of a sustained operating speed of no less than 200 miles per hour (320 km/h). There are a number of travel time benchmarks. The ones applicable to Phase 1 of the project are: (1) a maximum nonstop travel time between San Francisco and San Jose of 30 min., and (2) a maximum nonstop travel time between San Jose and Los Angeles of 2 hrs. and 10 min. (Thus, a nonstop time from SF to LA in 2 hrs. and 40 min.)
Proposition 1A compliance. This suit (John Tos, Aaron Fukuda, and the Kings County Board of Supervisors v. California High-Speed Rail Authority) was first filed in late 2011. On November 25, 2013 Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny issued two rulings in this lawsuit concerning the release of funding from the passage of Proposition 1A. First, the state did not have a valid financing plan, and he ordered the Authority to rescind its business plan and create a new one. Second, he also ruled that the state had not properly approved the sale of bonds to finance the project. The Brown administration sought an expedited appellate court hearing, but that was denied. However, on July 31, 2014, the 3rd District Court of Appeals three-judge panel reversed the lower court ruling and ordered Judge Kenney to vacate his decision. The final ruling was that the requirements for the financing plan, environmental clearances, and construction plans did not need to be secured for the entire project before construction began, but only for each construction segment. Finally, in October 2014, the state Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of this decision.
However, Judge Kenny split the aforementioned case into two parts, and the second part is still continuing with a trial date of Feb. 11, 2016. The issues still to be decided concern other Proposition 1A legal requirements: (1) Can the train travel from Los Angeles (Union Station) to San Francisco (Transbay Terminal) in two hours and 40 minutes? (2) Will the train require an operational subsidy? (3) Does the new "blended system" approach meet the definition of high-speed rail in Proposition 1A?
Also, on June 5, 2015 the Kings County Grand Jury released a report critical of the Kings County Board of Supervisors in pursuing this lawsuit. Three specific objections were noted: (1) no public hearings were held before litigation was started so public sentiment was not obtained, (2) grants that would have benefited the public were denied because the Board did not want to show any support for the HSR project, and (3) no county land would be affected by the project (except for road crossings), so the county was pursuing this suit for the benefit of individual property owners and not the public.
Fresno-Bakersfield section route certification. This lawsuit (Kings County, Kern County, the First Free Will Baptist Church of Bakersfield, Dignity Health in Bakersfield, and the City of Shafter v. California High-Speed Rail Authority) concerns the environmental certification and route selection of the Fresno to Bakersfield segment.
California Air Resources Board cap-and-trade funds lawsuit. In TRANSDEF (Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund) v. the California Air Resources Board the Authority is named as an affected party because it is the beneficiary of cap-and-trade fund allocations that are being challenged in the suit.
Federal Surface Transportation Board ruling. In Kings County, the Kings County Farm Bureau, Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability, the Bay Area-based Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail, California Rail Foundation and TRANSDEF v. Surface Transportation Board, the litigants are challenging in the federal Ninth Circuit Court a ruling made in 2014 by the Surface Transportation Board that federal environmental laws trump state environmental laws. The Authority is intervening in this suit, and the outcome will directly affect the Authority.
Friends of Eel River vs. North Coast Railroad Authority. This lawsuit is before the California Supreme Court, and is similar to the Surface Transportation Board suit regarding the federal decision trumping the California Environmental Quality Act. Two state appellate courts have issued conflicting decisions on this issue. The Authority is filing a friend of the court brief, and the outcome will directly affect the Authority.
Building the Initial Construction Segment (ICS)
Approvals. On December 2, 2010, the Authority Board of Directors voted to begin construction on the first section of the system from Madera to Fresno, known as the Initial Construction Segment (ICS). Five "construction packages" are currently being planned for this section. With the Design-Build contractual system the Authority is using, the contractor will be responsible for the final construction design elements, following the guidelines and specifications of the contract. The intent of this (as explained by Dan Richard, chair of the Authority) is to minimize last minute design change orders arising during the construction process (which tend to add to expenses and slow construction).
On December 20, 2010, due to the infusion of an additional $616 million in federal funds reallocated from states that canceled their high-speed rail plans, the initial segment of construction was extended to Bakersfield. Another $300 million was reallocated on May 9, 2011, extending the funded portion north to the future Chowchilla Wye (where trains can be turned).
In September 2012, the Obama administration gave California's high-speed rail project the green light to streamline the permitting process for the 114-mile (183 km) section of the project which starts just north of Fresno in Madera County and runs south to Bakersfield.
On August 12, 2014 the federal Surface Transportation Board approved the HSR route from Fresno to Bakersfield. This was the final approval needed before beginning construction.
Also, on December 15, 2014 the federal Surface Transportation Board determined (using well-understood preemption rules) that its approval of the HSR project in August "categorically preexempts" lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This cleared the last obstacle before construction could begin. However, this supposition is still being tested in the California courts in a similar case, Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority.
Management. On June 10, 2015 the Authority authorized a "Rail Delivery Partner" contract to be negotiated and signed by the CEO, valued at up to $700 million, for services through 2022. This is a successor to the support provided by the current Project Management Team contract. The RDP will provide engineering and management services to see the project from a planning mode into a construction mode. The RDP partnership under the lead of Parsons Brinckerhoff includes Network Rail Consulting (the international consulting arm of the UK rail authority) and LeighFisher (a global management firm with extensive experience in infrastructure and advisory services). The other partnership competing was under Bechtel Infrastructure Corporation.
Maps. Note: these maps are subject to change. Maps specific to each package are given in that section.
- Construction package map (PDF, January 2015, Packages 1 to 5)).
- Merced to Fresno (PDF, May 2013)
- Fresno to Bakersfield (PDF, April 2014)
Groundbreaking. A groundbreaking ceremony was hosted in Fresno on January 6, 2015 to mark the commencement of sustained construction activities.
Construction Package 1. On August 20, 2013 the joint venture of Tutor Perini/Zachary/Parsons executed a design-build contract for the initial Madera to Fresno segment, about 29 miles (47 km) long. The contract is valued at approximately $985 million, plus an additional $53 million in provisional sums. Construction was originally expected to begin in 2013, but has been delayed by the slow pace of property acquisition.
Construction Package 2-3. Spain's Dragados, with Flatiron West of San Marcos, and Jacobs Engineering of Oakland, won the bid for the second design-build construction package on December 11, 2014. Dragados/Flatiron/Jacobs submitted a bid of $1.234,567,890 billion to design and build the 65-mile (105 km) stretch from the south end of Fresno to near the Tulare-Kings county line and was deemed the "apparent best value" bidder by the Authority. (Interestingly, the Authority contacted the bidder to be sure that the peculiar proposal amount was indeed correct; it was.) The winning bid came well below the range of $1.5 billion to $2 billion that was forecast by engineers and consultants working for the rail authority due to their innovative plan for cutting-and-filling instead of more expensive construction alternatives.
Construction Package 4. This construction package had been formally let for bid in late May and was revised. With a due date of October 16, 2015, five construction teams are competing for this 22-mile (35.4 km) segment. This section has been estimated to cost $400–500 million.
This package was shortened by about 8 miles (13 km) to a length of 22 miles (35 km) due to disputes with the cities of Bakersfield and Shafter. The construction segment now ends on the north side of Shafter due to the need to negotiate routes through Shafter and northern Bakersfield. The agreement between the cities and the Authority gives the parties until January 2016 to come up with the new alignment. The Bakersfield Californian reported on Aug. 4, 2015 that an alternate route called the LGA (locally generated alignment) had been developed which is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) shorter, demolishes fewer buildings and few (or no) homes, and might cost less. It will be presented for public comment later in August, and won't be presented to the Authority until 2016. Formal acceptance will also have to wait until all the environmental studies have been completed.
- map of CP4 (PDF)
- Shafter to Bakersfield proposed alignments (August 2015) This shows both the LGA (locally-generated alternative) and the Authority's proposed route.
Construction Package 5. This package has yet to be announced.
Proposed Station Sites.
Heavy Maintenance Facility (HMF). A large parcel will be needed for this to incorporate train sheds, machine shops, other buildings, and tracks for work on the trainsets. The counties of Fresno, Madera, Merced, Kings, and Kern all have expressed some interest in being selected for the site, since it is expected to provide up to 1500 good paying jobs. It is expected that a site will be selected sometime in early 2016.
Other major construction objectives remaining. An additional construction package will be needed to reach from Poplar Avenue down into Bakersfield proper, and another package will be needed to reach from Madera up to the Chowchilla Wye. These are both part of the ICS, but not yet included in the current construction plans.
Other construction elements also remain to be determined ... trainsets, the station designs, and the precise right-of-way for other parts of the ICS (initial construction segment). Also, the track-laying and electric power installation will also be in a future contract.
Development and construction outside the ICS
San Franciso and Los Angeles metro areas. A number of connectivity and "bookend" projects are underway. Also, the Authority is proposing that land owned by the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank be used for the HSR station. They note that it would be the only station in the LA Basin providing connections between high-speed rail, air travel, commuter rail, and have nearby freeway access.
Palmdale to Burbank. Proposed routes for this section are displayed and explained in a 26 min. Virtual Open House presentation. This not only displays the factors taken into account to create the proposed routes, there is a virtual flyover of the proposed routes, and scenes from the many community meetings which illustrate the public outreach efforts underway (May-June 2015).
San Francisco to San Jose, and San Jose to Chowchilla Wye. On Aug. 7, 2015, a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was let for completion of two environmental reports, plus preliminary design services, for these two segments. This will require approximately three years.
Statewide Rail Modernization Map
The map to the right summarizes the implementation plans. Currently early investment "bookend" developments are occurring in the Bay Area and LA Basin, and construction has begun on the Initial Construction Segment (in the IOS area on the map).
Authority reports to the Legislature
SB 1029 (enacted in 2012) requires the Authority to produce a revised business plan every two years. This provides the best current overview of the goals, financing, and development perspectives on the project. 2014 Business Plan (PDF)
Current budget allocations summary
For Initial Construction Segment (ICS, in the IOS area)
- $2.6 billion (Proposition 1A) and $3.2 billion (federal) to build the first section from Madera to Bakersfield.
- $252 million in federal funds and state Proposition 1A funds for designing and planning the Phase 1 and Phase 2 system.
- $250 million added in 2014 budget year in Cap-and-Trade funds (not listed in 2014 Business Plan).
- total = $6.302 billion
For Connectivity and Bookend Projects
- $705 million to modernize Caltrain in the Bay Area.
- $500 million to upgrade rail systems in Southern California.
- $819 million for other connectivity projects statewide.
- total = $2.024 billion
Topographic Route Map
The system will extend from San Francisco south via the Central Valley to Los Angeles and Anaheim. As planned, the track from San Francisco to Los Angeles would be 520 miles (840 km). In Phase 2, it will be extended from Madera north to Sacramento, and from Los Angeles east through the Inland Empire and then south to San Diego, for a total of about 800 miles (1,300 km). Proposed stations are shown on the topographic map at right.
Implementation schedule summary
By 2022: Initial Operating Section (IOS) is to be completed — 300 miles — Merced to Burbank
- Provide a one-seat ride between Merced and Burbank.
- Close the north-south rail gap to link the Los Angeles Basin with the Central Valley and Northern California.
- Construct up to 130 miles of high-speed rail track and supporting structures in the Central Valley.
- Select a private sector system operator.
- Gain ridership and revenues to attract private capital for system expansion.
- Connect with upgraded regional and local rail lines for blended operations and shared ticketing.
By 2027: Bay to Basin is to be completed— 410 miles — San Jose & Merced to Burbank
- Provide a one-seat ride between San Francisco (Transbay Transit Center) and Burbank.
- Share an electrified, upgraded Caltrain corridor from San Jose to San Francisco (Transbay Transit Center).
- Offer the first high-speed rail service between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles Basin.
By 2029: Phase 1 Blended is to be completed — 520 miles — San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim
- Provide a one-seat ride between San Francisco (Transbay Transit Center) and Los Angeles (Union Station).
- Use dedicated high-speed rail tracks between San Jose and Los Angeles Union Station.
- Share an electrified, upgraded Caltrain corridor from San Jose to San Francisco (Transbay Transit Center).
- Share an upgraded Metrolink line from LA to Anaheim.
Phase 1 implementation plan
California Proposition 1A Bond funds and Federal ARRA funds are available to complete an 130-mile (209 km) initial segment from Fresno to Bakersfield in the Central Valley by 2017. This segment will connect with BNSF tracks at each end for passenger trains. The selection of the Central Valley as the location for initial construction was dictated in part by the requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funding, which stipulates that funding terminates in 2017 and that it be used for "rail passenger transportation except commuter rail passenger transportation."
ICS (the Initial Construction Segment) runs from just north of Fresno to Bakersfield, and is due to be completed by 2019. At this time it will not include electric power. Simultaneously with the ICS Central Valley construction, there will be "bookends" and connectivity investments (made available by California Senate Bill 1029)  The San Francisco Peninsula Corridor used by the Caltrain rail commuter service will be electrified, and tracks and signaling will be improved. In the LA Basin the Metrolink commuter service tracks, trains, and signaling will be improved. In Northern California, the Amtrak San Joaquin, the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, and the Caltrain systems will be better interconnected for passenger travel. While the high-speed rail construction will not have any immediate benefits, the "bookend" and connectivity improvements will provide immediate benefits. Caltrain, for instance, will be able to significantly increase the speed of its trains. Costs are estimated to be about $8 billion.
After construction reaches Bakersfield in about 2019, the Amtrak San Joaquin will begin using the HSR tracks. These trains will be able to significantly reduce their travel time (up to about an hour) from Bakersfield to Sacramento, since on the exclusive HSR tracks they will be able to run at top speed, which they cannot on the shared freight line they now use.
By 2022 the HSR construction is planned to have reached southward from Bakersfield through Palmdale in the high desert to Burbank in the San Fernando Valley, and northward from Madera to Merced (also including the Wye at Chowchilla ). The route over the Tehachapi Incline will be the major cost element in the southern segment, since there will be extensive cut-and-fill, aerial, and tunnel construction. At this time the IOS (Initial Operating Section) is scheduled to begin high speed train operations along the entire length of the HSR tracks, from Merced to Burbank, where passengers can connect to Los Angeles and Anaheim via Metrolink. At the north end connections to the San Joaquin will be available in Merced.
By 2027 the construction will have extended north from the Chowchilla Wye to San Jose, connecting there with the Caltrain route in San Jose. Thus, "Bay to Basin" HSR passenger rail will be available, connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, albeit by using multiple rides.
By 2029 the "Blended System" will be operational, providing a "one-seat ride" on a high-speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the commuter areas the high-speed trains will share commuter track, running at about 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), but in the open spaces they will use their exclusive HSR track and get up to about 220 miles per hour (350 km/h). The total travel time will be 2 hrs. 40 min. between the two metropolitan areas as the original Proposition 1A requires, over a track length of about 520 miles (840 km).
Note that a number of different train HSR schedules will be implemented to better meet different service needs and integrate with commuter traffic in the metropolitan areas. Only some of the trains will provide the fastest travel time over the full length of the route. Other schedules will provide more focused service for different regions in the state.
Phase 1 route details
San Francisco to San Jose. The 57 miles (92 km)  bookend from San Francisco to San Jose currently used by Caltrain is scheduled to be electrified by 2020. High-speed trains will run at 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) on shared tracks beginning with Bay to Basin in 2026. The one-way fare between San Francisco and San Jose is expected to cost $22 in 2013 dollars.
San Jose to Merced / the Diablo Range crossing. The 125 miles (201 km) from San Jose to Merced, crossing the Pacheco Pass, will run at top speed on dedicated HSR tracks for Bay to Basin in 2026 (since the current right of way south of Tamien is freight-owned). This segment runs through the Chowchilla Wye. The one-way fare between San Jose and Merced is expected to cost $54 in 2013 dollars.
One issue initially debated was the crossing of the Diablo Range via either the Altamont Pass or the Pacheco Pass to link the Bay Area to the Central Valley. On November 15, 2007, Authority staff recommended that the High Speed Rail follow the Pacheco Pass route because it is more direct and serves both San Jose and San Francisco on the same route, while the Altamont route poses several major engineering obstacles, including crossing San Francisco Bay. Some cities along the Altamont route, such as Pleasanton and Fremont, opposed the Altamont route option, citing concerns over possible property taking and increase in traffic congestion. However, environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, have opposed the Pacheco route because the area is less developed and more environmentally sensitive than Altamont.
On December 19, 2007, the Authority Board of Directors agreed to proceed with the Pacheco Pass option. Pacheco Pass was considered the superior route for long-distance travel between Southern California and the Bay Area, although the Altamont Pass option would serve as a good commuter route. The Authority plans conventional rail upgrades for the Altamont corridor, to complement the high-speed project.
This segment will also cross the Calaveras Fault.
Chowchilla Wye. The Chowchilla Wye is located between Gilroy and the main HSR line running between Merced and Fresno in the Central Valley. The wye has two purposes. One is to be able to take trains coming from the Bay Area and turn them to go towards Sacramento, and vice versa. The other is to allow a train to reverse itself on the tracks (that is, to swap the ends). However, since one of the train specifications is that they be able to have cabs at each end and run in both directions, the need to reverse trains is greatly reduced.
Merced to Fresno. The 60 miles (97 km) segment from Merced to Fresno in the Central Valley will run on dedicated HSR tracks for the Initial Operating Section in 2022. The southern portion of this segment (north of Madera to Fresno) has already received route approval and is undergoing construction.
- for map, refer to Initial Construction Section (ICS) above
Fresno to Bakersfield. The 114 miles (183 km) segment in the Central Valley will run on dedicated HSR tracks for the Initial Operating Section in 2022. As of 7 May 2014[update], the route for this segment has been chosen and approved by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Final route approval was obtained by the Federal Railroad Administration and the federal Surface Transportation Board in August 2014, so construction can proceed. Note that due to disputes with the cities of Shafter and Bakersfield, the currently planned segment ends north of Shafter until final routes through Shafter and northern Bakersfield are negotiated with those cities. (Refer to the Initial Construction Section (ICS) above.)
- for map, refer to Initial Construction Section (ICS) above
Bakersfield to Palmdale / the Tehachapi Mountains crossing. The 75 miles (121 km) from Bakersfield to Palmdale, crossing the Tehachapi Pass, will run on dedicated HSR tracks for the Initial Operating Section in 2022.
In January 2012, the Authority released a study, started in May 2011, that favors a route over the Tehachapi Pass into Antelope Valley and Palmdale over one that parallels Interstate 5 from San Fernando Valley over the Tejon Pass into the Central Valley. The route over the Tehachapi Mountains is still to be determined.
The low point on Tehachapi Pass is 4,031 feet (1,229 m). This is significantly higher than Pacheco Pass at 1,368 feet (417 m) over the Diablo Range, and so this is a more formidable engineering challenge. For comparison, the route over Pacheco Pass begins in Chowchilla (elevation 240 feet (73 m)), crosses the valley floor and climbs to the pass (elevation 1,368 feet (417 m)), and descends to Gilroy (elevation 200 feet (61 m)). The route over the Tehachapi Pass begins in Bakersfield (elevation 404 feet (123 m)), crosses the valley floor and climbs over steeper mountains to the pass (elevation 4,031 feet (1,229 m)), then descends to Palmdale (elevation 2,657 feet (810 m)).
Community meetings to solicit stakeholder concerns will take place until about the end of 2015.
Palmdale to Burbank / the San Gabriel Mountains crossing. The segment from Palmdale to Burbank will run on dedicated HSR tracks for the IOS in 2022. The one-way high speed rail fare between Palmdale and Los Angeles is expected to cost $31 in 2013 dollars. This segment will cross numerous seismic fault lines; this will include the San Andreas fault. This segment will cross the San Gabriel Mountains.
The basic route from Palmdale (elevation 2,657 feet (810 m), north of the San Gabriel Mountains) to Burbank (elevation 607 feet (185 m), south of the San Gabriel Mountains) is still under discussion. There are two major route alternatives. The one initially considered, called the "State Route 14 Corridor", ran from Palmdale in the Antelope Valley down through the Santa Clarita Valley to Burbank in the San Fernando Valley, a distance of about 51 miles (82 km). More recently, the "East Corridor" has been proposed, a route composed almost entirely of tunnels running under the Angeles National Forest, a distance of about 35 miles (56 km).
There is significant opposition by Santa Clarita Valley residents to the initial route, and the under-the-mountains route would reduce travel time by about 8 minutes, but would have additional Federal approval complications. There are still community stakeholder meetings proceeding, and as might be expected, there are also those who oppose the East Corridor alternative as well.
The Palmdale to Burbank route and environmental considerations presentation (May 2015, PDF) is available. The alternatives analysis is not due until the summer of 2015, and the route decision is not expected until 2016.
Burbank to Los Angeles. The approximately 12 miles (19 km) from Burbank to Los Angeles (LA Union Station) segment will run on dedicated HSR tracks for Phase 1 Blended in 2029. The one-way fare between Burbank and Los Angeles is expected to cost $26 in 2013 dollars.
Los Angeles to Anaheim. The 29 miles (47 km) from Los Angeles to Anaheim will run on an upgraded Metrolink corridor for Phase 1 Blended in 2029. The one-way fare between Los Angeles and Anaheim is expected to cost $29 in 2013 dollars.
Phase 2 implementation plan
There has been route planning for Phase 2, but no dates and no financing plans have been made. Proposition 1A requires that Phase 1 be completed before construction is started on Phase 2. The Phase 2 segments, Merced–Sacramento and Los Angeles–San Diego, total about 280 miles (450 km). The completed system length after these extensions are constructed will be about 800 miles (1,300 km).
Phase 2 route details
Los Angeles to San Diego. The 167 miles (269 km) from Los Angeles to San Diego will be built on dedicated HSR tracks in Phase 2, dates still uncertain.
Merced to Sacramento. The 110 miles (177 km) from Merced to Sacramento will be built on dedicated HSR tracks in Phase 2, dates still uncertain.
High desert corridor
The "high desert corridor" is the approximately 50 mile stretch between Palmdale and Victorville. In October 2014 the Authority obtained the services of a consultant to provide "planning, preliminary engineering, alternatives development, financial and programming analysis, stakeholder coordination, environmental and right-of-way services" for a connecting link between the California High-Speed Rail and XPressWest stations in those cities. XpressWest has also been looking at development of this segment, and has done some preliminary planning work on it. XpressWest Chief Operating Officer Andrew Mack believes that development of this corridor is key to the ultimate success of the XpressWest HSR train.
There is also a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) by local governments known as the High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Authority (composed of the County of San Bernardino and County of Los Angeles, and the cities of Adelanto, Victorville, Apple Valley, Lancaster, and Palmdale) to develop a new freeway/expressway from SR14 to I-15 as well as rail lines. Caltrans is currently planning the highway, and Metrolink is planning a light-rail extension.
Note that this potential route segment is not part of the ICS, nor is it even part of the HSR system yet. It also has no identified sources of funding. However, once the XPressWest HSR line goes into operation it would be beneficial to have both HSR systems linked, and so both systems are interested in a connection.
Acquisition. In January 2015 the California High Speed Rail Authority issued an RFP (request for proposal) for rolling stock for complete trains (known as "trainsets"). The proposals received will be reviewed so that acceptable bidders can be selected, and then requests for bids will be sent out. The winning bidder will likely not be selected until 2016.
- Bombardier Transportation
- China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock
- China North Locomotive and Rolling Stock
- Hyundai Rotem
- Kawasaki Heavy Industries Rolling Stock
- Siemens Mobility
Specifications. In addition to many other requirements:
- each trainset will have a sustained continuous speed of 220 miles per hour (350 km/h);
- a maximum testing speed of 242 miles per hour (389 km/h);
- a lifespan of at least 30 years;
- a length no longer than about 680 feet (210 m);
- the ability to operate two trainsets as a single "consist" (a long train);
- have control cabs at both ends of each trainset and the ability to go equally well in either direction;
- pass-by noise levels (82 feet (25 m) from track) not to exceed 88 dB at 155 miles per hour (249 km/h) and 96 dB at 220 miles per hour (350 km/h)
- carry 8 bicycles;
- have seating for first class and business class passengers as well as have space for wheelchairs;
- have food service similar to airplane style serving;
- allow for use of cellphones, broadband wireless internet access, and onboard entertainment services;
- have a train communications network to notify passengers of travel/train/station/time information;
- and also have earthquake safety systems for safe stopping and exiting.
One specification that is causing some difficulty is the HSR train requirement for a floor height of 50 in. (127 cm) above the rails. This is the international standard for high-speed rail trains, however, Caltrain trains have a floor height of only 25 in. (63.5 cm). (Metrolink trains have a similar issue.) In October 2014 Caltrain and the Authority agreed to work together to try to implement "level-boarding" on the shared station platforms.
One solution to this that Caltrain is pursuing is to have doors in their trainsets at two heights (one for each platform height). However, this will reduce seated passenger capacity in the trainsets by an estimated 78 to 188 seats per six-car train. The Authority is also resisting the idea of lowering their trainset floor height.
Expenses. It is estimated that for the entire Phase 1 system up to 95 trainsets might be required. Initially, however, only 16 trainsets are anticipated to be purchased. Trainset expenses, according to the 2014 Business Plan, are planned at $889 million for the IOS (Initial Operating Segment) in 2022, $984 million more for the Bay to Basin in 2027, and $1,403 million more for the completed Phase 1 in 2029, a total of $3.276 billion.
Additional funding needs
Dan Richard, Chairman of the CHSRA, has said that he believes that with the cap-and-trade funds the Authority will be able to have sufficient funds to complete the project. However, the costs of major segments, such as Pacheco Pass, the Tehachapi Pass, and crossing through the San Gabriel Mountains (via the Santa Clarita Valley or under the Angeles National Forest) are not yet known, and could have significant budgetary impacts, especially if cost savings from design-build innovations are realized.
His optimism still assumes that there will be significant private enterprise contributions to the project.
There is also no question, though, that additional funds from the state and federal governments would make completing the project easier than it is at present. Phase 2 funding might also require that. Since the directions the winds blow in Washington cannot be easily forecast, it is possible that some future funding might appear under another Administration and Congress.
A summary (as of 5/4/2015) of the Authority's funding plan is on their website.
In addition to the direct reduction in travel times the HSR project will produce, there are other anticipated benefits, both general to the state, to the regions the train will pass through, and to the areas immediately around the train stations.
Statewide economic growth and job creation. In 2009, the Authority projected that construction of the system will create 450,000 permanent jobs through the new commuters that will use the system, and that the Los Angeles-San Francisco route will generate a net operating revenue of $2.23 billion by 2023, consistent with the experience of other high-speed intercity operations around the world. The 2012 Economic Impact Analysis Report by Parson Brinkerhoff (project managers for the Authority) also indicated substantial economic benefits from high-speed rail.
The 2012 Business Plan also estimates that the Initial Construction Segment (ICS) construction will "generate 20,000 jobs over five years," with the Phase 1 system requiring 990,000 job-years over 15 years, averaging 66,000 annually.
Environmental benefits. According to a fact sheet on the Authority website the environmental benefits of the system include:
- In 2022, when the Initial Operating Section (Merced to the San Fernando Valley) is up and running, the resulting greenhouse gas reductions will be between 100,000 to 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the first year. That’s the equivalent of from between 17,700 to 53,000 personal vehicles taken off the road.
- Between 2022 and 2040, the cumulative reduction of CO2 is estimated to be between 5 and 10 million metric tons. By 2040, the system is estimated to reduce vehicles miles of travel in the state by almost 10 million miles of travel every day (16,000,000 km).
- Over a 58-year period (from the start of operations in 2022 through 2080), the system is estimated to reduce auto travel on the state’s highways and roads by over 400 billion miles of travel (6.4×1011 km).
Regional benefits. In its 67-page ruling in May 2015, the federal Surface Transportation Board noted: "The current transportation system in the San Joaquin Valley region has not kept pace with the increase in population, economic activity, and tourism. ... The interstate highway system, commercial airports, and conventional passenger rail systems serving the intercity market are operating at or near capacity and would require large public investments for maintenance and expansion to meet existing demand and future growth over the next 25 years or beyond." Thus, the Board sees the HSR system as providing valuable benefits to the region's transportation needs.
The San Joaquin Valley is also one of the poorest areas of the state. For example, the unemployment rate near the end of 2014 in Fresno County was 2.2% higher than the statewide average. And, of the five poorest metro areas in the country, three are in the Central Valley. The HSR system has the potential to significantly improve this region and its economy. A large January 2015 report to the CHSRA examined this issue.
In addition to jobs and income levels in general, the presence of HSR is expected to benefit the growth in the cities around the HSR stations. It is anticipated that this will help increase population density in those cities and reduce "development sprawl" out into surrounding farmlands.
Criticisms and reviews
There are two significant types of criticism. One is the legally established "peer review" process that the legislature established for an independent check on the Authority's planning efforts. The other are public criticisms by groups, individuals, public agencies, and elected officials.
It should be also noted that not all issues to get the HSR system in place have been resolved. There are still real concerns remaining, as some of the following criticisms will show. It should also be noted that this is a large, complex project, and it is entirely normal that not all issues will be resolved before significant investment has been made in construction. Critics tend not be optimistic that the remaining issues will be resolved satisfactorily. In the end, there is no clear evidence one way or the other that the project can be completed satisfactorily or not. This is where the proponents talk about the American "can-do" spirit, and because the overall framework is sound, the remaining issues can be resolved. Dan Richard, the chair of the Authority, even said this at the Bold Bets: California on the Move? conference in February 2015 hosted by The Atlantic magazine and Siemens.
California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group. The California Legislature established the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group to provide independent analysis of the Authority's business plans and modeling efforts. These documents are submitted to the Legislature as needed. The most recent analysis is Comments on the 2014 Business Plan
Key points in this include:
- Modeling has been improved, but there is a lack of practical experience to inform them, and the participation of potential stakeholders (businesses and investors) would be beneficial.
- The improved forecasts and estimates still have significant uncertainty.
- Future funding sources are still uncertain for meeting projected needs.
- The blended system approach raises issues that need resolution (Caltrain platform heights and train floor heights, extra high electric catenaries for freight car clearance, use of Caltrain's CBOSS system of Positive Train Control by HSR trains, and possible increased dangers of higher speed trains at non-separated road crossings).
- There is a need for improvements in the forthcoming 2016 Business Plan (specifically, the omission of Norwalk and Anaheim passenger demand, boardings, and revenues), and recommendation for re-evaluation of the operation of the LAUS to Anaheim link.
Professional studies. Two peer studies have recently been made of station siting and design in Europe.
Eric Eidlin, an employee of the Federal Transit Administration (Region 9, San Francisco), in 2015 wrote a study funded by the German Marshall Fund of the United States comparing the structural differences of the three relative to HSR and their historical development. He also focused on the issue of station siting, design, use, and impact on the surrounding community. From this, he developed ten recommendations for CASHRA. Among these are:
- Develop bold, long-term visions for the HSR corridors and stations.
- Where possible site HSR stations in central city locations.
- In rural areas emphasize train speed, in urban areas emphasize transit connectivity.
- Plan for and encourage the non-transit roles of the HSR stations.
Eidlin's study also notes that in California there has been debate on the disadvantages of the proposed blended service in the urban areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, including reduced speeds, more operating restraints, and complicated track-sharing agreements. However, there are some inherent advantages in blended systems that have not received much attention: shorter transfer distances for passengers, and reduced impacts on the neighborhoods.
A July 2015 study by A. Loukaitou-Sideris, D. Peters, and W. Wei of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State College compared the rail systems of Spain and Germany, and how blended high-speed rail lines have succeeded there. Emphasis was also given to station siting, design, and use. Similarly to Eidlin's study, they found that the best stations not only provided high connectivity, but they also had a broader role by providing shops and services to community members as well as travelers.
The California High-Speed Rail system has been criticized on budgetary, feasibility, legal, environmental, political, and public opinion grounds. Criticisms have been made by individuals, public officials, private institutions, government agencies, and civil society organizations.
Reason Foundation, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and the Citizens Against Government Waste published a large study (called the Due Diligence Report) critiquing the project in 2008. In 2013 Reason Foundation published an Updated Due Diligence Report. Key elements of the updated critique include
- unachievable train speed
- implausible ridership projections
- spiraling costs
- no funding plan
- incorrect assumptions re HSR alternatives
- increasing fare projections
This critique is based on the 2012 Business Plan. Although the 2012 Business Plan has been superseded by the 2014 Business Plan, the critique does include the Blended System approach using using commuter trackage in SF and LA.
James Fallows in the The Atlantic magazine succinctly summarized all the public criticisms thusly, "It will cost too much, take too long, use up too much land, go to the wrong places, and in the end won't be fast or convenient enough to do that much good anyway."
Alternatives to HSR. Some have offered the idea that instead of risking the large expenditures of high-speed rail, that existing transportation methods be increased to meet increased transportion needs. However, in a report commissioned by the Authority, a comparison was made to the needed infrastructure improvements if high-speed rail were not constructed. According to the report, the cost of building equivalent capacity to the $68.4 billion (YOE) Phase 1 Blended plan, in airports and freeways, is estimated to be $119.0 billion (YOE) for 4,295 new lane-miles (6,912 km) of highway, plus $38.6 billion (YOE) for 115 new airport gates and 4 new runways, for a total estimated cost of $158 billion.
"Hyperloop" is an alternative system that Elon Musk has championed. He has criticized the high-speed rail project as too expensive and not technologically advanced enough (trains that are too slow). On August 12, 2013 he released a high-level alpha design for a Hyperloop transit system concept which he claimed would travel over three times as fast and cost less than a tenth of the rail proposal. The following day he announced a plan to construct a demonstration of the concept. Musk's claims have been subject to significant debate and criticism, in particular that the costs are still unknown and likely understated, the technology is not proven enough for statewide implementation, the route proposed doesn't meet the needs of providing statewide transportation, and it does not meet the legal requirements of Proposition 1A and so would require a whole new legal underpining.
Project budget concerns. The project's cost and scope have long been a source of controversy. The Authority has estimated the project's year-of-expenditure cost at $68.4 billion (2012 estimate). In July 2014 The World Bank reported that the per kilometer cost of California's high-speed rail system was $56 million, more than double the average cost of $17–21 million per km of high speed rail in China and more than the $25–39 million per km average for similar projects in Europe. It should be noted, though, that high real estate prices in California and three mountain ranges to cross contribute to the difference. For example, Construction Package 2-3 in the farmland of the flat Central Valley works out to $11.4 million per km, although this figure does not include electrification or property values, so it's roughly comparable internationally. Furthermore the proposed HSR 2 in Great Britain is estimated to be more expensive on a per mile basis than the Californian system. In general investments in rail infrastructure tend to be more expensive in the US than elsewhere (examples include the second Avenue subway in New York and the "big dig" in Philadelphia) due to a variety of factors.
The California Legislative Analyst's Office published recommendations on May 10, 2011, which they said will help the high-speed rail project be developed successfully. They recommended that the California legislature seek flexibility on use of federal funds and then reconsider where construction of the high-speed rail line should start. They also recommended that the California legislature shift responsibility away from the Authority and fund only the administrative tasks of the Authority in the 2011–12 budget.
In January 2012, an independent peer review panel published a report recommending the Legislature not approve issuing $2.7 billion in bonds to fund the project. The panel of experts was created by state law to help safeguard the public's interest. The report said that moving ahead on the high-speed rail project without credible sources of adequate funding represents a financial risk to California.
Prior to the July 2012 vote, State Senator Joe Simitian, (D-Palo Alto), expressed concerns about financing needed to complete the project, asking: "Is there additional commitment of federal funds? There is not. Is there additional commitment of private funding? There is not. Is there a dedicated funding source that we can look to in the coming years? There is not." The lobbying and advocacy group Train Riders Association of California also considers that Bill SB 1029 "provides no high-speed service for the next decade".
The 2008 Due Diligence Report projected that the final cost for the complete system would be $65.2 to $81.4 billion (2008), significantly higher than estimates made for the Authority by Parsons Brinckerhoff, an American engineering firm. However, the Authority is using Design-Build construction contracts to counter the tendency toward cost over-runs. All of the construction is to be done via "design-build" proposals wherein each builder is given leeway in the design and management of construction, but not the ability to run back with contract change orders except for extraordinary problems. The builder is given specifications but also given the freedom to meet them in their own way, plus the ability to modify the construction plans in an expeditious and cost-effective manner. As of May 2015, both construction packages awarded have come in significantly under staff estimates. For example, Construction Package 1 came in 20% under staff estimates ($985 million versus $1.2 billion), and Construction Package 2-3 came in under by 17% to 28% ($1.234567 billion versus $1.5-$2 billion)
Ridership and revenue concerns. In May, 2015, the Los Angeles Times published an article by critics on the estimated operational revenue of the system in "Doing the math on California's bullet train fares". The article raised a number of doubts that the system could be self-supporting, as required by Prop 1A, and ended by quoting Louis Thompson (chairman of an unnamed state-created review panel) who said "We will not know until late in the game how everything will turn out."
The Due Diligence Report in 2008 projected fewer riders by 2030 than officially estimated: 23.4 to 31.1 million intercity riders a year instead of the 65.5 to 96.5 million forecast by the Authority and later confirmed by an independent peer review.
However, Robert Cruickshank of the California High Speed Rail Blog (which closely watches the project and advocates for it) countered by raising numerous critiques of data and conclusions in the article in his article "LA Times Completely Botches Story of HSR Fares". In addition, readers of his blog submitted evidence that the data given for some of the comparison fares were seriously in error.
The Authority's ridership estimates initially were unrealistically high, and have been revised several times using progressively better estimating models, including risk analysis and confidence levels. These now use generally recognized international standard methods. The 2014 study (at a 50% confidence level) estimated the following ridership/revenue figures:
2022 (IOS): 11.3 million riders / $625 million
2027 (Bay to Basin): 19.1 million riders / $1055.6 million
2029 (Phase 1 initial): 28.4 million riders / $1350.4 million
2040 (Phase 1 mature): 33.1 million riders / $1559.4 million 
Travel time concerns. There have been some comments by critics (such as the Due Diligence Report noted above) that the proposed system will not meet the Proposition 1A requirement of downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles travel time of 2 hours and 40 minutes.
The Authority's plan is close to the requirement, but does push the limits of conventional HSR speed.
- San Francisco to San Jose nonstop at 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) for (57 miles (92 km)) = 31 min. (note 30 min. is required).
- San Jose to Los Angeles nonstop at 220 miles per hour (350 km/h) for (417 miles (671 km) or 437 miles (703 km)) = 1 hr. 54 min. or 1 hr. 59 min. (note 2 hr. 10 min. is required). Even at a slower 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) the times would be 2 hrs. 5 min. or 2 hrs. 11 min.
Both the 2008 and 2013 Due Diligence reports state that no existing high-speed train currently meets the proposed speed and safety goals. It notes that the highest peak HSR speed in the world on production runs is about 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) in France, and this is significantly less than the sustained speed of 220 miles per hour (350 km/h) the CHSRA plan requires. They also note safety concerns in running at top speed through highly populated urban areas such as Fresno. However, for three years Chinese HSR trains ran at 217 miles per hour (349 km/h), but the speeds were reduced due to safety concerns and costs. 
The current trainset specification requires sustained speeds of 220 miles per hour (350 km/h). So, ultimately it is up to the trainset manufacturers to meet the Authority's speed requirement, since the proposed route and speed do meet the Proposition 1A requirements.
Legality concerns. In December 2011 Legislative Analyst's Office published a report indicating that the incremental development path outlined by CHSRA may not be legal. According to the State Analyst, "Proposition 1A identifies certain requirements that must be met prior to requesting an appropriation of bond proceeds for construction. These include identifying for a corridor, or a usable segment thereof, all sources of committed funds, the anticipated time of receipt of those funds, and completing all project-level environmental clearances for that segment. Our review finds that the funding plan only identifies committed funding for the ICS (San Joaquin Valley segment), which is not a usable segment, and therefore does not meet the requirements of Proposition 1A. In addition, the HSRA has not yet completed all environmental clearances for any usable segment and will not likely receive all of these approvals prior to the expected 2012 date of initiating construction."
However, initial concerns regarding the projects legality have (as of May 2015) been put to rest. (See Legality under History, above.)
Central Valley and Pacheco Pass route concerns. Some people are concerned with the Valley route, in particular its going down the east side of the Central Valley rather than the more open west side. Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability note: "Environmental lawsuits against the California High-Speed Rail Authority often claim inadequate consideration of running the track next to Interstate 5 in the Central Valley or next to Interstate 580 over the Altamont Pass." 
The Pacheco Pass alignment going through the Grasslands Ecological Area, has been criticized by two environmental groups; The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. A coalition that includes the cities of Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto has also sued the Authority to reconsider the Altamont Pass alternative. More than one hundred land owners along the proposed route have rejected initial offers by the Authority, and the Authority has taken them to court, seeking to take their land through eminent domain. The possibility of urban sprawl into communities along the route have been raised by farming industry leaders.
San Fernando Valley opposition. On Thursday, May 28, 2015 the CHSRA held an open house meeting in the City of San Fernando to discuss the route into the Valley and the impacts of the proposed rail service, and found opposition by angry protesters, including city officials. Residents and officials of other affected cities in the Valley also have serious concerns. The Authority says it is committed to making this work, and to involving the communities to select the best route, but there are many factors to consider in selecting the route. Michelle Boehm, the Southern California section director of the project, said that the route would be selected over the next 12 to 18 months, and issue a final environment report in two years. The next community meeting will be in downtown Los Angeles on June 9, and is also expected to draw many protesters.
While the facts of this meeting are true, Robert Cruickshank of the California High Speed Rail Blog notes that the author of the piece, Ralph Vartabedian, has proven to be a consistent opponent of the project, and has mischaracterized what happened. For example, the opposition by local political leaders also occurred in other cities where routes through them were proposed as long ago as 2009, and the Authority's representatives were not "stunned" as Vartabedian said by the opposition, but rather experienced at remaining low-key during the hearing, as they have done before.
Property acquisition delays. The effect of property acquisition delays has created some serious concerns, and there is a September 30, 2017 deadline to spend the federal stimulus money of nearly $4 billion.
The Construction Package 1 contract was signed in August 2013, yet not all the property necessary has been acquired in a timely manner, which has seriously slowed down the work. In March 2015, the contractor, Tutor Perini, sought additional funds due to the added expense of delays.
As of June 2015, about 260 properties had been acquired of the nearly 1,100 needed (in whole or in part) for the first two construction sections. Since December 2013, 259 resolutions of necessity have been adopted by the state's Public Works Board, the necessary step before issuing eminent domain resolutions and acquiring the land through litigation. By July 2015, the pace of acquisition was clearly speeding up with the increasing pace at which the state adopted its eminent domain resolutions.
The PPIC March 2015 Survey has the latest statewide polling on the project:
- Support for the project has hovered around 50% since 2012.
- In 2015, when asked if they favor or oppose the project ("As you may know, California voters passed a $10 billion state bond in 2008 for planning and construction of a high-speed rail system from Southern California to the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. The estimated costs associated with the high speed rail system are about $68 billion over the next 20 years. Do you favor or oppose building a high-speed rail system in California?"), then 47% favor it, and 48% oppose it.
- When asked how they feel if the project cost less, favorability rises to 64%.
- When asked how important high-speed rail is (“Thinking ahead, how important is the high-speed rail system for the future quality of life and economic vitality of California -— is it very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?”), then 64% of respondents said very or somewhat important, and 35% said not too or not at all important.
Breakdowns of the results are also given by political affiliation, geographic region, and likely voter.
Dan Richard, chair of the Authority, says in an interview with James Fallows that he believes approval levels will increase when people can start seeing progress, and trains start running on the tracks.
Additional information in the press
Since this is such a major project and there is significant public controversy concerning it, there is also substantial continuing information in the press. In order to make this more readily available, here are some recent significant sources of additional information.
Columns and/or continuing coverage.
- San Jose Mercury News (direct project link)
- huffingtonpost.com (direct project link, especially good for pre-2015 information)
- Progressive Railroading (high-speed rail link for professionals)
- The Fresno Bee (direct project link, paid subscription required)
Bold Bets: California on the Move? The Bold Bets: California on the Move? conference was hosted February 2015 by The Atlantic magazine and Siemens. There were some significant discussions, presentations, and interviews. Notably, Dan Richard, chair of the Authority, was interviewed by James Fallows. (This interview is online.)
The Atlantic magazine covers California HSR. James Fallows in The Atlantic magazine wrote a series of 17 articles (from July 2014 to January 2015) about the HSR system which covers many aspects of the system, criticisms of it, and responses to those criticisms.
See also in Wikipedia
- California High-Speed Rail Authority, the governing authority of California HSR.
- Hyperloop, a still-theoretical high speed transit system that does not use rail technology. Its development is currently being funded.
- Proposition 1A (2008), the initial authorizing legislation for California HSR.
- XpressWest, formerly DesertXpress, a planned high-speed rail from Victorville to Las Vegas.
- California High-Speed Rail Authority. "Implementation Plan" (PDF). pp. 23, 25. Retrieved July 17, 2008.[dead link]
- "Project Vision and Scope". California High-Speed Rail Authority. 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
- Sheehan, Tim (April 2, 2012). "California revamps high-speed rail business plan". The Fresno Bee.
- Staff (February 21, 2015). "The most expensive public-works project in U.S. history". The Week.
- 2013 "CALIFORNIA STATE RAIL PLAN" (PDF). California Department of Transportation. May 2013.
- "Fact Sheet: High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program: California" (Press release). The Whitehouse. January 27, 2010. Retrieved March 1, 2011.
- "California High-Speed Rail Awarded $715 Million" (Press release). California High-Speed Rail Authority. October 28, 2010. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
- "U.S. Department of Transportation Redirects $1.195 Billion in High-Speed Rail Funds" (Press release). U.S. Department of Transportation. December 9, 2010. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
- "U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $2 Billion for High-Speed Intercity Rail Projects to Grow Jobs, Boost U.S. Manufacturing and Transform Travel in America" (Press release). U.S. Department of Transportation. May 9, 2011. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
- Michael Martinez (July 19, 2012). "Governor signs law to make California home to nation's first truly high-speed rail". CNN. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- California High-Speed Rail Authority (April 2012). "California High-Speed Rail Program Revised 2012 Business Plan" (.PDF). State of California. p. ES-13. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- Mulkern, Anne. "CALIFORNIA: $2.2B in cap-and-trade funds begins flowing, boosting rail, housing, clean cars". EEnews.net. E & E Publishing, LLC. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
- "Judge blocks use of state bond money for California bullet train". Los Angeles Times. November 25, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- "Calif. seeks appellate hearing on high-speed rail". ABC23 Kero/Bakersfield. February 11, 2014. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- "High-speed rail lawsuit advances". Cal Watchdog. March 13, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
- "Appeals court denies petition, clears way for high-speed rail trial". The Fresno Bee. April 16, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
- "California high-speed rail project wins big in appellate court ruling". San Jose Mercury News. August 1, 2014. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- Griswold, Lewis (October 15, 2014). "State Supreme Court won’t take up Kings County high-speed rail challenge". The Fresno Bee.
- "Bold Bets: California on the Move?". The Atlantic. February 25, 2015.
Video of event
- "High-Speed Rail Authority Approves State Matching Funds to Extend Backbone of Statewide System" (Press release). California High-Speed Rail Authority. December 20, 2010. Retrieved January 8, 2010.
- Cruickshank, Robert (August 12, 2014). "STB Approves Fresno to Bakersfield Route". California High Speed Rail Blog.
- Sheehan, Tim (December 15, 2014). "U.S. board: Federal law on high-speed rail trumps state environmental lawsuits". The Fresno Bee.
- Sheehan, Tim (June 2, 2015). "Farm Bureaus jump into Supreme Court high-speed rail case". The Fresno Bee.
- "High-Speed Rail Authority Hosts Official Groundbreaking Ceremony" (PDF). California High-Speed Rail Authority. January 6, 2015.
- "Tutor Perini Joint Venture Executes Contract for California High-Speed Rail Project". The Wall Street Journal. August 20, 2013.
- "California high-speed-rail groundbreaking pushed back another few months". San Jose Mercury News. September 17, 2013. Retrieved October 21, 2013.
- Interview of Dan Richard by James Fallows at Bold Bets conference on February 25, 2015
- Press Release (April 3, 2014). "High-Speed Rail Authority Solicits Proposals from Five World-Class Teams" (PDF). California High-Speed Rail Authority.
- Sheehan, Tim (May 12, 2015). "Five construction teams invited to bid for next high-speed rail contract in Valley". The Fresno Bee.
- Weikel, Dan; Vartabedian, Ralph (June 8, 2015). "First phase of bullet train is cut due to Bakersfield, Shafter disputes". Los Angeles Times.
- Garland, Chad (August 18, 2015). "State eyes land owned by Bob Hope Airport for high-speed rail project". Burbank Leader (Los Angeles Times).
- Sheehan, Tim (4 August 2015). "High-speed rail agency seeks consultant for Bay-to-Valley studies". The Fresno Bee. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
- "2014 Business Plan Ridership and Revenue Technical Memorandum" (PDF).
- CHSRA Staff Recommendation Presentation
- Michael Cabanatuan (November 15, 2007). "High Speed Rail Authority staff advises Pacheco Pass route to L.A.". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
- The Associated Press (February 9, 2011). "State Picks Pacheco Pass For High-Speed Rail". CBS 13. Retrieved March 1, 2011.
- This segment runs through the Chowchilla Wye. Merced to Fresno
- Weikel, Dan (August 12, 2014). "Central Valley bullet train construction gets federal go-ahead". Los Angeles Times.
- Bakersfield to Palmdale
- "California HSR Authority releases study". Railway Age. January 10, 2012. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
- Vartabedian, Ralph (December 13, 2014). "Bullet train's eventual link to L.A. rail system far from clear-cut". Los Angeles Times.
- Edelhart, Courtenay; Cox, John (23 May 2011). "Revisiting of rail route angers cities". Californian (Bakersfield, California). Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- "Sun Valley Beautifu;" (PDF). High Speed Rail. State of California. January 2012. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Vartabedian, Ralph (30 June 2014). "Burbank-Palmdale segment added to bullet train timetable". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Los Angeles to Anaheim
- Sheehan, Tim (December 27, 2014). "In California’s high-speed train efforts, worldwide manufacturers jockey for position". The Fresno Bee.
- Cruickshank, Robert (October 7, 2014). "Caltrain and CHSRA To Work Together for Level Boarding". California High Speed Rail Blog.
- Boone, Andrew (May 19, 2015). "Design of High-Speed Trains Threatens to Diminish Caltrain Capacity". Streetsblog San Francisco.
- Adler, Ben (April 2, 2012). "New High-Speed Rail Plan: $30 Billion Less, First Phase from Merced to Burbank". Capital Public Radio.
- Judy Lin (July 6, 2012). "California High Speed Rail Funding Approved". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- California High-Speed Rail Authority (December 14, 2009). "December 2009 Business Plan Report to the Legislature" (PDF). pp. 109–110. Retrieved June 24, 2011
- Druce, Paul (June 6, 2011). "High speed rail operational surplus". Reason & Rail. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
- Yarow, Jay. "Amtrak Loses $32 Per Passenger". Business Insider.
- 2012 Revised Business Plan Fact Sheet
- Official website: California High Speed Rail Peer Review Group
- http://www.gmfus.org/publications/making-most-high-speed-rail-california Making the Most of High-Speed Rail in California: Lessons from France and Germany
- Fallows, James (July 11, 2014). "California High-Speed Rail—the Critics' Case". The Atlantic.
- (PDF) http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/about/business_plans/BPlan_2012CompareEquivalentCapacity.pdf. Missing or empty
- "Comparison of Providing the Equivalent Capacity to High-Speed Rail through Other Modes" (PDF). April 2012. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
After adjusting the analysis to be more comparable to the costs described in the Business Plan, the total costs of equivalent investment in airports and highways would be $123-138 billion (in 2011 dollars) to build 4,295-4652 lane-miles of highways, 115 gates, and four runways for Phase 1 Blended and Phase 1 Full Build, respectively... In year-of-expenditure (YOE) dollars, the highway and airport costs would be $158-186 billion.
- Vance, Ashlee (12 August 2013). "Revealed: Elon Musk Explains the Hyperloop, the Solar-Powered High-Speed Future of Inter-City Transportation". Bloomberg Businessweek. Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
- Musk, Elon (August 12, 2013). "Hyperloop Alpha" (PDF). SpaceX. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
- "Musk announces plans to build Hyperloop demonstrator". Gizmag.com. 2013-08-13. Retrieved 2013-08-14.
[Musk] will develop and construct a Hyperloop demonstrator.
- "Experts Raise Doubts Over Elon Musk's Hyperloop Dream". MIT Technology Review. 2013-08-12. Retrieved 2014-12-30.
- PRESS RELEASE (July 10, 2014). "Cost of High Speed Rail in China One Third Lower than in Other Countries". The World Bank.
- "High-Speed Rail Is at a Critical Juncture". California Legislative Analyst's Office.
- Buchanan, Wyatt (January 4, 2012). "High-speed rail shouldn't be funded, report says". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 4, 2012
- Tolmach, Richard F. (August 2012). "High Speed Bait and Switch: $8 billion bill to produce zero miles of HSR". California Rail News 24 (2) (Sacramento, CA: TRAC). p. 1.
- Fallows, James (December 13, 2014). "That Winning Bid for California's High-Speed Rail: Is It Suspiciously Low?". The Atlantic.
- Cruickshank, Robert (April 13, 2015). "CHSRA Selects Tutor Perini-Zachry-Parsons Bid for Central Valley Section". California High Speed Rail Blog.
- Vartabedian, Ralph; Weikel, Dan (May 10, 2015). "Doing the math on California's bullet train fares". Los Angeles Times.
- "Final Report: Independent Peer Review of the California High-Speed Rail Ridership and Revenue Forecasting Process" (pdf). August 1, 2011.
We are satisfied with the documentation presented in Cambridge Systematics, and conclude that it demonstrates that the model produces results that are reasonable and within expected ranges for the current environmental planning and Business Plan applications of the model. We were very pleased with the content, quality and quantity of the information.
- Cruickshank, Robert (May 10, 2015). "LA Times Completely Botches Story on HSR Fares". California High Speed Rail Blog. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- Cruickshank, Robert (13 May 2015). "Amtrak Crash Puts Spotlight on Rail Infrastructure Needs". California High Speed Rail Blog.
- "World's longest high-speed train to decelerate a bit". People's Daily Online. 15 April 2011.
- Dan Walters (December 15, 2011). "Legal trap could snare bullet train". North County Times. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
- "TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT CALIFORNIA HIGH-SPEED RAIL (OUT OF THOUSANDS OF THINGS ALMOST NO ONE KNOWS)". Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA). April 18, 2014.
- "Enviro Groups Rally Against Fast-Tracking California High-Speed Rail". The Heartland Institute. July 16, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
- "Setback for HSR in San Jose to San Francisco Environmental Analysis". Planetizen. November 13, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
- "Altamont". TRANSDEF. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
- "Property rights battles threaten to further slow California's costly, long awaited bullet train project". FoxNews. 17 March 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Vartabedian, Ralph (14 March 2015). "Ready to fight: Some growers unwilling to lose land for bullet train". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Sheehan, Tim (23 August 2014). "Land deals slowing California high-speed rail plan". The Fresno Bee. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Vartabedian, Ralph (24 February 2015). "Critics fear bullet train will bring urban sprawl to Central Valley". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Vartabedian, Ralph (May 30, 2015). "San Fernando leaders confront state officials over bullet train route". Los Angeles Times.
- Cruickshank, Robert (March 7, 2015). "Tutor Perini May Demand Compensation for HSR Delays". California High Speed Rail Blog. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- Sheehan, Tim (June 16, 2015). "Heavy equipment finally moving on California high-speed rail construction". The Fresno Bee.
- Sheehan, Tim (July 13, 2015). "More properties eyed in Valley counties for high-speed rail". The Fresno Bee.
- AB 3034 – official document (the authorizing legislation for Proposition 1A)
- California High-Speed Rail Authority – official web site
- California State Rail Plan (2013) – official document
- California High Speed Rail Blog – proponent
- Against California HSR – opponent