California High-Speed Rail

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California High-Speed Rail
CAHSRA Logo.svg
San Joaquin River Viaduct under construction in 2019.
San Joaquin River Viaduct under construction in 2019.
The same viaduct completed in April 2021. Adjacent are the SR-99 freeway and, between them, a single-track railroad line which is used for freight.
The same viaduct completed in April 2021. Adjacent are the SR-99 freeway and, between them, a single-track railroad line which is used for freight.
OwnerCalifornia High-Speed Rail Authority
Area servedInterim Initial Operating Segment (Interim IOS) now under construction in San Joaquin Valley;
Planned Phase 1 extensions:
   north to San Francisco Bay Area
   south to Greater Los Angeles;
Future extensions for Phase 2:
   north to Sacramento, California
   south to San Diego, California
LocaleCalifornia, United States
Transit typeHigh-speed rail
Number of stations5 proposed in Interim IOS; up to 24 allowed in completed system
Chief executiveBrian P. Kelly
Operation will start2029 for Interim IOS
Operator(s)DB E.C.O. North America Inc.
System lengthc. 171 mi (275 km) in Interim IOS;
c. 520 mi (840 km) in Phase 1;
c. 800 mi (1,300 km) completed system[1]
No. of tracks2 (plus 2 loading tracks in stations)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification25 kV 60 Hz AC overhead line[2][3]
Top speed220 mph (350 km/h) maximum;
110 mph (180 km/h) San Francisco–Gilroy[4] & Los Angeles–Anaheim[5]

California High-Speed Rail (also known as CAHSR or CHSR) is a publicly funded high-speed rail system currently under construction in California in the United States. Planning for the project began in 1996, when the California Legislature and Governor Pete Wilson established the California High-Speed Rail Authority and tasked it with creating a plan for the system and presenting it to the voters of the state for approval. In 2008, voters approved Proposition 1A, which established a route connecting all the major population centers of the state, authorized bonds to begin implementation, and set other requirements.

The CAHSR system is being implemented in segments. The first of the dedicated HSR segments, the Interim Initial Operating Segment ("Interim IOS"), is being constructed now in the San Joaquin Valley portion of California's Central Valley. It will run from Merced to Bakersfield, and is planned to begin operations in 2029. Concurrently, in the major metropolitan areas of San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles, the commuter rail systems are being upgraded for improved safety and service, and to support a "blended system" in the future with CAHSR sharing upgraded tracks, power, train control, and stations. Extending the Interim IOS to connect to the northern and southern metropolitan segments is dependent on future funding, so their timing is uncertain.

Maximum train speeds will be about 220 miles per hour (350 km/h) in the dedicated HSR segments, and about 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) in the blended segments. Once the full Phase 1 system opens, the nonstop trains between San Francisco and Los Angeles – which are about 350 miles (560 km) apart by air – must not exceed 2 hours and 40 minutes travel time.

The high-speed rail system is anticipated to provide environmental benefits (reducing pollution and carbon emissions), traffic benefits (improving passenger travel, and reducing vehicular traffic and air travel congestion), and economic benefits (especially in the Central Valley). The implementation of the project has been controversial due to its selected route, management, delays in land acquisition and construction, cost over-runs, and inadequate funding for finishing the entire system.

Current status and plans[edit]

Project plan showing the Central Valley Construction Packages.

By 2022 there had been some significant concern about the slow pace of the project and its increasing costs. In June 2022 Governor Newsom pushed for the release of the last of the Proposition 1A bond funds in order to get an operating system working in the Central Valley.[6] In concert with this, SB 198 was signed into law. It requires the Authority to make the Interim IOS its top priority.[7] The Authority indicates the Interim IOS will go into service before 2030.

After completing the Interim IOS, the Authority plans to advance construction on the Merced-San Jose segment, linking the Central Valley to the tracks of the Caltrain commuter rail system. This will allow HSR trains to run from San Francisco to Bakersfield. Funding for construction of this segment has yet to be secured. The Authority is also aggressively seeking additional federal funds.

The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group (established by the California Legislature) has noted a number of concerns about the progress of the project, including issues acquiring property in the Central Valley, delays due to lawsuits, an early lack of requisite management experience, and weak legislative oversight. Inflation has also become a major concern due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the War in Ukraine.[8]

The project will require legislative action, so the issues raised by the Peer Review Group and KPMG, the Authority's project consultant, will help the legislature select from the Board's proposed plans or other alternatives.

Phased implementation plan[edit]

Phase 1 runs from San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim, and is being implemented in sections. In the Central Valley there is massive construction underway, and more is in preliminary processing.[9] The Authority is currently constructing 119 miles (190 km) of guideway and structures. To make the Interim Initial Operating Segment ("Interim IOS") self-sustaining, additional length is in the process being added at each end to reach the cities of Merced (north) and Bakersfield (south) for a total length of about 171 miles (275 km).[10] At each end, the Interim IOS will connect to other transit systems for passenger transfers. "Bookend" investments are also being made in the Bay Area and Southern California upgrading existing infrastructure to improve local rail transit as well as support eventual HSR service.[11]

The next implementation priority of the Authority is to provide an HSR link from the Interim Initial Operating Segment to Gilroy (to the west of Merced) and a "blended" system link to San Jose (to the north of Gilroy). This will enable a "blended" route from San Francisco to Gilroy, and an HSR route from Gilroy to Bakersfield. This will allow HSR trains to provide a "one seat ride" from San Francisco to Bakersfield.

The last major construction element in Phase 1 is completing the route from Bakersfield south to Anaheim (in the Greater Los Angeles area). Future planning and funding are indeterminate.

Phase 1 must be operational before Phase 2 is built. Phase 2 will extend the HSR system north to Sacramento and south to San Diego. These extensions are still in the preliminary planning stages.

2022 Business Plan[edit]

CAHSR connections to other rail systems and "bookend" investments. Not all the other lines are named, and Madera (between Merced and Fresno) is not shown. Red stars indicate investments in other rail systems.

The 2022 Business Plan includes information regarding the project's status, goals, and activities. In order to make an effective, self-supporting Initial Operating Segment, due to financial constraints the Authority is focusing on five areas:

  1. Creating the infrastructure for a viable Interim IOS. That means adding the additional 52 miles (84 km) to create an 171-mile (275 km) HSR-operable segment between Merced and Bakersfield, and creating the train stations along the route. Advanced design contracts have been awarded for both extensions, and work on route acquisition and construction will be performed as funding becomes available.[12][13][14] On October 10, 2022 the contract for the first phase of station creation (expected to take about 30 months) was let.[15]
  2. Creating an operational HSR system for testing. A Track and Systems contract will need to be let to install tracks, power, and control systems for the initial 119 miles (192 km) of right-of-way, and HSR train sets will need to be acquired to test on it. When the track and systems work along the initial 119 miles (192 km) is completed, there will be a two-year period of testing the HSR trainsets, trackage, and control systems while construction proceeds on the Merced and Bakersfield extensions. The Authority plans to restructure and re-issue the Track and Systems procurement in 2023.[16] The Authority has applied for federal funds to purchase six trainsets capable of speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour (320 km/h).[17]
  3. Readying the entire Phase 1 system for construction. The segments from San Francisco to Palmdale and from Burbank to Los Angeles have already been environmentally cleared. Palmdale to Burbank is expected to be approved in 2023, and Los Angeles to Anaheim in 2024. As each segment is cleared the Authority plans to complete its advanced design and engineering. The goal is to have all segments in Phase 1 ready for construction when funding becomes available.[18]
  4. Continuing to advance "bookend" investments. In Northern California, these include electrification of Caltrain, grade separations, and an automatic train control system between San Francisco and San Jose. The Authority will also be working with Union Pacific Railroad to extend electrification to Gilroy, since the selected route between San Jose and Gilroy uses the UPRR alignment. In Southern California, these include phase A of Link Union Station, which through-tracks LA Union Station, and other improvements such as early grade separations in the Burbank-to-Los Angeles shared corridor, the Rosecrans-Marquardt grade separation, and an automatic train control system. These investments provide immediate benefits in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, while also readying those transit systems for eventual shared use by HSR trainsets.
  5. Opening the Interim IOS to passenger traffic before 2030. SB 198 (passed by the legislature and signed into law in June 2022) prioritized getting the Interim IOS into operation.[7] The contracted Early Train Operator (ETO) selected to run the system is DB E.C.O. North America Inc. The plan is to have the Interim IOS run double-tracked from Merced to Bakersfield, have five stations (Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings/Tulare, and Bakersfield), provide many more trips per day than current service, and operate the trains up to 220 miles per hour (350 km/h) for a significantly faster service.[9] The Merced station will provide a transfer point to the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) and San Joaquins (Amtrak) rail routes to Sacramento and the Bay Area (San Francisco and Oakland) as well as local buses. The Bakersfield station will have a transfer to Thruway Bus Service for travel to Southern California.[19]

Also, a major addition to the development and operation plan is a new emphasis on risk analysis and risk mitigation (with these now integrated into the formal authorization process), and contingency reserves are being increased. Revenue and expense projections indicate that constructing an operable 171-mile (275 km) segment is feasible.

A preview of the 2023 Project Update Report indicates it will include:

  • A new funding strategy.
  • An updated program baseline budget and schedule.
  • Design of the IOS extensions and the Merced and Bakersfield stations.
  • Completing the remaining Phase 1 environmental clearances.
  • New ridership and revenue forecasts presented by the Early Train Operator (DB E.C.O. North America Inc.).
  • Updated capital costs to complete Phase 1.

Financial status and plans[edit]

Fig. 3.3 from 2022 Business Plan (p. 59).

The CAHSR's latest financial projections are discussed in detail in its 2022 Proposition 1A Funding Plan (September 2022). The legislature also had this plan reviewed by an independent accounting agency, and no significant problems were noted.[20]

As of September 2022, the Authority's plans indicated $23.4 billion in identified funding through 2030, with funds coming from Proposition 1A bonds, a number of federal grant program awards, and 25% of California's cap-and-trade auction proceeds. These will go towards a budgeted allocation of $17.9 billion for Central Valley construction (about 119 miles (192 km)), design work for the Merced and Bakersfield extensions, the "bookend" projects now underway, completing the environmental clearances and design work needed for all of Phase 1, station construction, plus $4.6 to $6.0 billion for double-trackage, extension construction, and trainsets for the Interim IOS.[21]: 59 

As of November 2022, the Authority was seeking an additional $8 billion in funding via grants from the federal government. Should it be awarded, this funding will allow the Authority to leverage its resources and use the additional federal funds for:

  • Double-tracking the initial 119 miles (the first priority),
  • Construction and land acquisition to advance the extension south to Bakersfield,
  • Purchase of the trainsets needed for the Initial Operating Segment operations,
  • Design of the Merced and Bakersfield extensions, and
  • Construction of the initial five HSR stations.[22]

Per the 2022 Business Plan, the expected new funding will be budgeted to:

  1. "Deliver an electrified two-track initial operating segment connecting Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield as soon as possible.
  2. Invest statewide to advance engineering and design work as every project section is environmentally cleared.
  3. Leverage new federal and state funds for targeted statewide investments.
  4. Develop a funding strategy to extend high-speed rail beyond the Central Valley and to the Bay Area as soon as possible."[23]: 3 

The funding and budget strategy is now to leverage existing state funds and use matching federal funds to achieve the optimal result in project investments. Table 3.3 in the 2022 Business Plan (on p. 55) shows how the Authority is matching the proposed funding with the different project results. For example, "System-Wide Advancement/Start Bay Area Connection" (see figure above) includes advanced design as well as right-of-way acquisition in the San Jose to Merced segment.[23]: 55 

There is no cost estimate as yet to complete the HSR route north to San Francisco, however, cost estimates to complete the entire Phase 1 system[21]: 79  range from a low-estimate of $76.7 billion, to a mid-estimate of $92–94 billion, to a high-estimate of $113 billion. (A major unknown is the cost of tunneling, which will not be known until exploratory field studies are done.) It is expected that new figures will be provided in the 2023 Project Update Report in March 2023.

Construction status and plans[edit]

San Joaquin Viaduct and Pergola, California Transportation Foundation's Structure of the Year 2020. The pergola (at the far end) is not shown here.[24]
Exhibit 2.6 Construction Package progress (3-31-2022).

The groundbreaking ceremony for CAHSR was held on January 6, 2015 in Fresno, California.

In the Central Valley major construction projects are underway. Three separate construction packages total 119 miles (192 km) of guideway and 93 structures. As of October 2022, 49 miles (79 km) of guideway are complete, and 39 are underway; 35 structures are complete, and 34 are underway.[25] Exhibit 2.6 from the 2022 Business Plan gives an overall comparison between the packages as of Mar. 31, 2022.

  • CP4 comprises 22 miles (35 km) adjoining the end of CP2-3 to the intersection of Poplar / Madera Avenue northwest of Shafter. It includes at-grade embankments, retained-fill over-crossings, viaducts, aerial sections of the high-speed rail alignment, and the relocation of 4 miles (6.4 km) of existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) tracks. The contractor is California Rail Builders, a joint venture of Ferrovial-Agroman West, LLC and Griffith Company.[26] The design-build contract was signed February 29, 2016. This construction package is forecast to be completed first, by Mar. 21, 2023.[27]: 31 
  • CP1 comprises 32 miles (51 km) from Avenue 17 north of Madera to East American Avenue south of Fresno. It includes 12 grade separations, two viaducts, one tunnel, a major river crossing over the San Joaquin River, and the realignment of State Route 99. The contractor is the joint venture of Tutor-Perini/Zachry/Parsons.[28] The design-build contract was signed August 16, 2013. This construction package is forecast to be completed next, 33 months later (Dec. 31, 2025).[27]: 13 
  • CP2-3 comprises 65 miles (105 km) from East American Avenue south of Fresno to 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the Tulare / Kern County border. It includes approximately 36 grade separations, viaducts, underpasses, and overpasses. The contractor is the joint venture of Dragados USA/Flatiron Construction.[29] The design-build contract was signed June 10, 2015. This construction package is forecast to be completed last, 3 months later (Mar. 21, 2026).[27]: 22 
  • The Heavy Maintenance Facility (HMF), which will be located in Fresno, is proceeding through the planning and approval process.[30]

Extensions status[edit]

Extensions of the line from the above central section north to Merced and south to Bakersfield, totaling about 52 additional miles (84 km), are also progressing through advanced design work, right-of-way mapping, and identification of utility relocation work. The Merced to Madera extension design contract ($41 million) was awarded to Stantec Consulting Services Inc., for approximately 33.9 miles (54.6 km) with 40 structures. The Shafter to Bakersfield (Locally Generated Alternative) extension design contract ($44.9 million) was awarded to HNTB for approximately 18.5 miles (29.8 km). with 31 structures. These design contracts are expected to last into 2024.[31]

Following these steps, land acquisition, infrastructure construction, and track and systems installation will still need to be accomplished before the extensions can become part of the operable Interim IOS before the end of the decade.

Statewide connectivity ("bookend") projects[edit]

According to the Authority: "Connectivity or ‘Bookend’ Projects refer to the billions of dollars in infrastructure investment throughout the state that are part of the California High-Speed Rail system. These funds will strengthen and improve existing rail networks, while also connecting them with California's future high-speed rail system. Senate Bill (SB) 1029[32] passed by the California Legislature and signed by Governor Brown in July 2012, invests almost $2 billion from the Safe, Reliable, High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century (Proposition 1A) into transit, commuter, and intercity rail projects across the state. This funding leverages approximately $5 billion in additional funding for these projects."[33]

Major "bookend" investments are underway to the north and south:

  • The Caltrain electrification "bookend" investment in the Bay Area (as well as grade separations, etc.) is proceeding, and is expected to be completed in late 2024.[34]
  • A "bookend" investment in the "Link US" project (Phase A) will shortly begin construction for Los Angeles Union Station. Phase B still needs to be funded.[35]

There are many other connectivity projects partly funded by the Authority. Particularly significant are those which implement Positive Train Control systems on the commuter systems which will be part of the blended system.[33]

Route and stations[edit]

The project aims to connect California's major metropolitan areas together, and link to their local commuter systems. It will be built in two major phases. Phase 1 connects San Francisco and the Bay Area through the San Joaquin Valley (the southern part of the Central Valley) to Anaheim in the Greater Los Angeles area, a distance of about 500 miles (800 km). Phase 2 extends the north end of the Central Valley section up to Sacramento, and extends the Los Angeles section in the south through the Inland Empire down to San Diego at the bottom of the state, for a total system length of about 800 miles (1,290 km).

The number of stations on the completed system was limited by Proposition 1A to 24. Not all station locations have been decided. At the start of operations of the Interim Initial Operating Segment (Interim IOS, Merced to Bakersfield) there will be 5 stations.

Route finalized from Central Valley to San Francisco[edit]

Although the Authority is focused on getting the Interim IOS in the Central Valley in operation by the end of the decade, it is also looking ahead to the next step (that is, connecting to San Francisco using the prepared Caltrain blended route). On April 28, 2022 it approved the final route in the San Jose to Merced section. This alignment (Alternative 4) uses the existing Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) alignment from San Jose to Gilroy as a blended section. [36]

East of Gilroy the alignment becomes a pure HSR section with approximately 15 miles (24 km) of tunnels through the Pacheco Pass. Trains will be able to travel at 220 miles per hour (350 km/h) even through the tunnels. When tunnel field studies, early engineering, and design work are completed for this section, it will be ready for construction when funding is available. Tunnel construction is anticipated to take up to 6 years to complete once begun.[37]

Route travel-time/speed requirements[edit]

Proposition 1A[38] also set the maximum nonstop travel times between certain destinations on the system:

  1. San Francisco–San Jose: 30 minutes; this would require about 100 miles per hour (160 km/h)
  2. San Jose–Los Angeles: 2 hours, 10 minutes; this would require about 200 miles per hour (320 km/h)
  3. San Francisco–Los Angeles Union Station: 2 hours, 40 minutes
  4. San Diego–Los Angeles: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  5. Inland Empire–Los Angeles: 30 minutes
  6. Sacramento–Los Angeles: 2 hours, 20 minutes

In addition, the achievable operating headway between successive trains must be less than 5 minutes.[38]

Trains (rolling stock)[edit]

Artistic rendering of a CAHSR high-speed train running in the Central Valley. As the model of trainset to be acquired is not yet known, such renderings are purely illustrative.


In January 2015, the Authority issued a request for proposal (RFP) for complete trainsets. The proposals received will be reviewed so that acceptable bidders can be selected, and then requests for bids will be sent out.

In February 2015, ten companies formally expressed interest in producing trainsets for the system: Alstom, AnsaldoBreda (now Hitachi Rail Italy), Bombardier Transportation, CSR, Hyundai Rotem, Kawasaki Rail Car, Siemens, Sun Group U.S.A. partnered with CNR Tangshan, and Talgo.[39]

Due to company acquisitions and mergers since then (CSR merged with CNR, and Bombardier Transportation merged with Alstom), the number of companies now qualified for the tender is seven. The qualified companies are Alstom, Siemens Mobility, Talgo, Hitachi Rail Italy, CRRC, Hyundai Rotem, and Kawasaki Rail Car.

An additional factor for the selection of a model is the Buy America regulation for production of rolling stock in the US. The Federal Railroad Administration granted a waiver for two prototypes to be manufactured off-shore. The remaining trainsets would need to be built according to the rules.[40] This requirement was mentioned as a significant reason that Chinese manufacturers dropped out of the Brightline West (then known as XpressWest) project with similar technical trainset specifications.[41]

Included in a May 2022 grant request to the Biden administration is a request for funds to purchase six HSR trainsets.[14] It is estimated that for the entire Phase 1 system up to 95 trainsets might be required.[42]

Station-sharing issue[edit]

The CAHSR trains will use a different standard than Caltrain for their floor height above the rails. The CAHSR trains have a floor height of 50.5 in (128 cm) above the rails, which is significantly higher than the 22 in (56 cm) floors of Caltrain's commuter trainsets. To resolve this issue, Caltrain is procuring new Stadler KISS EMUs that have doors at both heights.[3][43] Each station provides either one platform height or the other. Only a few of the stations will service both trainsets. Thus, in the Bay Area most of the stations will be used exclusively by Caltrain.

HSR passenger line operations[edit]

Request for Qualifications[edit]

In April 2017, the CHSRA announced it had received five responses to its request for qualifications for the contract to assist with the development and management of the initial phase of the high-speed line and be the Interim IOS operator.[44][45]

Selected Early Train Operator[edit]

In October 2017, the California High-Speed Rail Authority announced that DB E.C.O. North America Inc (formerly known as DB Engineering & Consulting USA Inc.) had been chosen as the Early Train Operator.[46] This decision came after a Request for Qualifications was put out by the Authority looking for well established groups able to provide operational guidance for the future system once opened.

Services provided by DB International US are:

  • Project Management
  • Ridership and passenger revenue forecasts
  • Preferred revenue collection systems
  • Rolling stock fleet size and interior layout
  • Service planning and scheduling
  • Operations and maintenance cost forecasting
  • Station design & operations
  • Optimization of life cycle costs
  • Procurements
  • Fare integration and Interoperability
  • Safety and security
  • Operations control/dispatching responsibilities
  • Maximizing system revenues
  • Marketing and branding

Legal aspects[edit]

This project already has a long history. Topics included in the main History page (the link shown above) include the early history (before 2015), discussion of HSR alternatives, legislation, financing, construction, and legal challenges.


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.[47][48]

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A to construct the initial segment of the high-speed rail network, and issued $9 billion in bonds to begin its construction.[49] It also set certain requirements for the project:[50]

  • Established the basic route linking the major population centers
  • Minimum 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) where conditions permit
  • Maximum of 24 stations on the system
  • Maximum travel times between certain points
  • Financially self-sustaining (operation and maintenance costs fully covered by revenue)

The proposition also authorized an additional $950 million for improvements on local commuter systems, which will serve as feeder systems to the high-speed rail system.

In June 2014, state legislators and Governor Jerry Brown agreed to apportion the state's annual cap and trade funds so that 25% goes to high-speed rail as an ongoing source of funds.[51]


In 2014, the CHSRA was challenged on its compliance with its statutory obligations under Proposition 1A (John Tos, Aaron Fukuda, and the Kings County Board of Supervisors v. California High-Speed Rail Authority). In November 2021 a circuit court ruled against the plaintiffs.

On December 15, 2014, the federal Surface Transportation Board determined that its approval of the HSR project in August "categorically preexempts" lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This determination was tested in a similar case, Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority. The Supreme Court of California determined on July 27, 2017 that CEQA is not exempted by federal law.[52][53]

In February 2022, Hollywood Burbank Airport sued the Authority over its approval of the draft EIR for that section of the high-speed railway.[54]

Economic and environmental impacts[edit]

In addition to the direct reduction in travel times the HSR project will produce, there are other anticipated benefits, economic and environmental, both generally to the state and to the regions the train will pass through, and also to the areas immediately around the train stations. Some of the items of note include:

  • The Central Valley Training Center is a pre-apprenticeship job training program for the project. It has been operating since 2020, and has trained over 100 people and assisted with job placement.[55]
  • The Authority produces an annual Sustainability Report on its efforts to both build the HSR system in a sustainable way, but also its estimates on the effects of the HSR system. For example, it indicates that the project generated between $12.7 and 13.7 billion in total economic activity in the state, with 56% investment in disadvantaged communities.[56]
  • The Authority also produces an annual cumulative report on the economic benefits of the HSR project.

Peer review, public opinion, and criticism[edit]

There are two types of review and criticism noted here: the legally established "peer review" process that the California legislature established for an independent check on the Authority's planning and implementation efforts,[57] and public criticisms by groups, media, individuals, public agencies, and elected officials.

At the February 2015 conference Bold Bets: California on the Move?, hosted by The Atlantic magazine and Siemens, Dan Richard, the then-chair of the Authority, warned that not all issues facing the HSR system had been resolved.[58]

Peer Review Group[edit]

The California Legislature established the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group to provide independent analysis of the Authority's planning and implementation efforts. Their documents are submitted to the Legislature as needed.

The April 1, 2022 report[59] noted a number of positive factors:

  • Improved prospects for federal funding with the Biden Administration.
  • Disruptions and impacts caused by COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, and inflation are all noted but being dealt with.
  • Significant progress has been made on the necessary environmental clearances.
  • Greater attention is being given to local transit connectivity and local economic impacts.
  • Major improvements have been made to project management and risk mitigation.

However, there were also a number of significant concerns noted:

  • The total level of uncertainty has likely increased due to effects of COVID-19 and inflation.
  • Prior experience with cost increases and scheduling delays raises some uncertainties about future performance. Cost increases have been over 86%, average delays have been 118%, only 90% of ordinary real estate parcel needed have been acquired, only 63% of railroad parcels have been acquired, and only 65% of utility parcels have been acquired.
  • Some of the cost estimates presented were out of date, but expected to be updated in the 2023 Project Update Report.
  • Major components of the project (representing over half its cost) have no bidding or contract management experience. Thus, estimates for these are clearly suspect.
  • There are critical issues regarding management and legal issues with other agencies for the operation of the system which remain unresolved. (There are a number of these listed, as well as unknown long term impacts of COVID-19 on ridership and inflation.)
  • Adequate legislative oversight is lacking.
  • Per the report, "[O]verall project funding remains inadequate and unstable making effective management extremely difficult. In addition, the Authority has no clear guidance from the Legislature on the next steps in the project."
  • "Even with a realistic share of new Federal funding, the project cannot get outside the Central Valley without added state or local funding from sources not yet identified."

Professional studies of blended systems[edit]

Study #1. Eric Eidlin, an employee of the Federal Transit Administration (Region 9, San Francisco), wrote a study in 2015 funded by the German Marshall Fund of the United States comparing the structural differences of two HSR European systems and their historical development with California's HSR system.[60] He also focused on the issue of station siting, design, use, and impact on the surrounding community. From this, he developed ten recommendations for CAHSRA. 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. 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. Blended systems are in use in Europe.[61]

Study #2. A 202-page study by A. Loukaitou-Sideris, D. Peters, and W. Wei of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University in 2015 compared examples of "blended systems" in Spain and Germany where conventional and high-speed rail (HSR) services either used the same tracks over a portion of track or at a specific station.[62] The study found that blended systems were cheaper to build, required less space, and provided easy transfers between different modes of transportation, but resulted in lower system capacity (due to greater separation distances required when combining HSR and conventional traffic), were often not possible to properly implement in urban areas due to the additional land area requirements for passing sidings, resulted in additional challenges in operations, and caused frequent delays.[63]

Public opposition[edit]

In 2008 the Reason Foundation, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and Citizens Against Government Waste (all right-wing organizations), published a study which they named the "Due Diligence Report" critiquing the project.[64] In 2013, the Reason Foundation published an "Updated Due Diligence Report".[65] Key elements of the updated critique include:

  • operating train speed higher than any existing HSR system at the time
  • unrealistic ridership projections
  • increasing costs
  • no clear funding plan
  • incorrect assumptions regarding HSR alternatives
  • increasing fare projections

This 2013 critique was based on the 2012 Business Plan. Although the 2012 Business Plan has been superseded by the 2022 Business Plan, the critique does include the Blended System approach using commuter tracks in SF and LA.

James Fallows in The Atlantic magazine summarized public criticism thus, "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."[66]

In 2013 a different type of criticism was leveled at the proposed HSR system when the idea of using a "blended" system with Caltrain was promoted. It was felt that this idea did not meet the original Proposition 1A plan due to the resulting lower operating speeds, fewer trips, and fewer riders.[67]

Public opinion[edit]

Public approval for CAHSR has remained steady over the years:

In April 2022 UC Berkeley's Institute of Government Studies released a survey of registered voters that found 56% supported continuing the high-speed rail project even if "its operations only extend from Bakersfield to Merced in the Central Valley by the year 2030 and to the Bay Area by the year 2033."[68] Approval varies by political affiliation with 73% of Democrats backing the project versus 25% of Republicans.

An older statewide survey, in March 2016, by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) indicated that 52% of Californians support the project, while 63% of Californians think the project is either "very important" or "somewhat important" for California's economy and quality of life. Support varies by location (with the San Francisco Bay Area the highest at 63%, and lowest in Orange/San Diego at 47%), by race (Asians 66%, Latinos 58%, Whites 44%, and Blacks 42%), by age (declining sharply with increasing age), and by political orientation (Democrats 59%, independents 47%, and Republicans 29%).[69] Dan Richard, then-chair of the Authority, said in an interview with James Fallows that he believes approval levels will increase when people can start seeing progress, and trains start running.[58]

In 2008, voters approved Proposition 1A with 52.6%.

Las Vegas HSR project[edit]

Brightline West (formerly Desert Xpress and XpressWest) is a project that since 2007 has been planning to build a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada, part of the "Southwest Rail Network" they hope to create. The rail line would begin in Las Vegas and cross the Mojave Desert stopping 5 miles (8.0 km) outside of Victorville, California and eventually terminating in Palmdale, California (where it would connect with CAHSR and Metrolink). This route would total about 230 miles (370 km). A second branch into Rancho Cucamonga (in the Inland Empire) is also planned.

As of November 2022, a start date for construction of Brightline West had yet to be announced.

Further study[edit]

The Authority's documents[edit]

The Authority's latest financial projections and its current implementation strategy are discussed in detail in its 2022 Proposition 1A Funding Plan (September 2022).

The Authority's Business Plan describes the project's goals, financing, and development plans. It is updated every even year (since 2008), and must be submitted to the Legislature by May 1.

The Authority's Update Report gives a program-wide summary, as well as information for each project section, in order to clearly describe the project's status. It is produced every odd year (since 2015, except for 2021), and must be submitted to the Legislature by March 1.

The Authority's Newsroom provides frequent news releases concerning all aspects of the project.

The Authority's Info Center provides factsheets, regional newsletters, maps, and video simulations of route "fly-overs".

Independent reviews[edit]

The California Peer Review Group produces independent analysis of the project for the state legislature. Its documents are available on its website.

The state legislature also has provided that independent financial review be conducted of the Authority's plans. The firm Project Finance Advisory Limited (“PFAL”) was selected to do this beginning in November 2015. The September 2022 review is available at Independent Financial Advisor Report To California High-Speed Rail Authority Regarding: Proposition 1A Funding Plan.

Other documents[edit]

In 2014-2015, James Fallows wrote a series of 17 articles for The Atlantic about the HSR system. The series covered many aspects of the system, criticisms of it, and responses to those criticisms.


  1. ^ California High-Speed Rail Authority. "Implementation Plan" (PDF). pp. 23, 25. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 10, 2008. Retrieved July 17, 2008.
  2. ^ "TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM: Traction Power 2x25kV Autotransformer Feed Type Electrification System & System Voltages" (PDF). CHSRA. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "KISS Double-Decker Electric Multiple Unit EMU for Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (CALTRAIN), California, USA" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 6, 2016. Retrieved October 16, 2016.
  4. ^ "HSR Q+A: Blended System & Passing Tracks with Boris Lipkin". California High-Speed Rail Authority. 2020. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
  5. ^ "ES.0 Executive Summary: ES.1 Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report Results" (PDF). Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  6. ^ Walters, Dan (July 20, 2022). "Troubled bullet train project given a reprieve". CalMatters. Retrieved January 5, 2023.
  7. ^ a b "2022 Proposition 1A Funding Plan, September 2022" (PDF). California High-Speed Rail Authority. Retrieved December 29, 2022.
  8. ^ Peer Review Group's 2022 report to the state legislature
  9. ^ a b "Major Construction Under Way on High-Speed Rail Project : CEG".
  10. ^ High-Speed Rail: Central Valley at a Glance California High-Speed Rail Authority
  11. ^ 2022 Business Plan California High-Speed Rail Authority
  12. ^ California High-Speed Rail Board Approves Design Contracts to Prepare for Construction into Merced and Bakersfield California High-Speed Rail Authority
  13. ^ $25 Million in Federal Funding Awarded to Advance High-Speed Rail in California California High-Speed Rail Authority
  14. ^ a b California High-Speed Rail Authority Pursues First Major Award Of New Federal Infrastructure Funds California High-Speed Rail Authority
  15. ^ California High-Speed Rail Board Awards Design Contract for Central Valley Stations California High-Speed Rail Authority
  16. ^ California High-Speed Rail Authority to Restructure Track and Systems Procurement California High-Speed Rail Authority
  17. ^ "NEWS RELEASE: California High-Speed Rail Authority Pursues First Major Award Of New Federal Infrastructure Funds". CAHSRA.
  18. ^ "2022 Business Plan" (PDF). p. 52.
  19. ^ Get the facts California High-Speed Rail Authority
  20. ^ "Independent Financial Advisor Report To California High-Speed Rail Authority Regarding: Proposition 1A Funding Plan" (PDF). Retrieved January 5, 2023.
  21. ^ a b "California High-Speed Rail 2022 Business Plan". California High-Speed Rail Authority. September 2022. Retrieved November 6, 2022.
  22. ^ California High-Speed Rail Applies for Millions in New Federal Funds to Advance Construction Toward Bakersfield California High-Speed Rail Authority
  23. ^ a b 2022 Business Plan California High-Speed Rail Authority
  24. ^ San Joaquin River Viaduct Chosen as Structure Project of the Year by the California Transportation Foundation California High-Speed Rail Authority
  25. ^ CAHSRA. "Central Valley Status Report, December 2022" (PDF). p. 8.
  26. ^ "BuildHSR". California High-Speed Rail Authority.
  27. ^ a b c Central Valley Status Report California High-Speed Rail Authority
  28. ^ "BuildHSR | California High-Speed Rail Authority | Construction Package 1".
  29. ^ "BuildHSR | California High-Speed Rail Authority | Construction Package 2-3".
  30. ^ "2022 Business Plan" (PDF). p. 42.
  31. ^ "Despite Hurdles, Pushback, Major Construction Under Way On High-Speed Rail Project". Construction Equipment Guide. November 15, 2022. Retrieved December 26, 2022.
  32. ^ "Senate Bill No. 1029". California Legislature. Retrieved December 27, 2022.
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  34. ^ "Caltrain Electrification Delayed to 2024 | Caltrain".
  35. ^ "Metro to Approve Early Phase of Union Station Run-Through Tracks Construction". May 24, 2022.
  36. ^ "San Jose to Merced Project Section, Final Environmental Impact Report, Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement, Executive Summary, February 2022" (PDF). Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  37. ^ "Tunneling in Northern California, SAN JOSE TO MERCED PROJECT SECTION FACTSHEET" (PDF).
  38. ^ a b "Official Voter Information Guide – Proposition 1A" (PDF). California State Legislature. 2008. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  39. ^ "Expressions of Interest Received : HSR 14-30: Request for Expressions of Interest for Tier III Trainsets" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 2, 2019. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  40. ^ "In California's high-speed train efforts, worldwide manufacturers jockey for position". The Fresno Bee. December 27, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  41. ^ "XpressWest, seeking to build U.S. high-speed rail, ends deal with China group". June 9, 2016.
  42. ^ "California High-Speed Rail Blog » HSR Trainset Bids Could Create New Domestic Industry". February 23, 2015. Archived from the original on February 25, 2015. Retrieved January 14, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  43. ^ "Rail News - New Caltrain trainsets, Sound Transit rail cars arrive. For Railroad Career Professionals". Progressive Railroading. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  44. ^ Operators from five countries interested in California high speed rail contract Railway Gazette International April 6, 2017
  45. ^ International consortia bid to become California high speed rail early operator Archived April 7, 2017, at the Wayback Machine Global Rail News April 6, 2017
  46. ^ DB consortium selected for California high speed rail consultancy contract Railway Gazette International October 9, 2017
  47. ^ "SB 1420 Senate Bill – Chaptered". Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  48. ^ "California High-Speed Rail Authority". Retrieved January 14, 2016.
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  50. ^ "AB 3034". State of California. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  51. ^ "Cap-and-Trade Revenue: Likely Much Higher Than Governor's Budget Assumes". Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  52. ^ Sheehan, Tim (June 2, 2015). "Farm Bureaus jump into Supreme Court high-speed rail case". The Fresno Bee.
  53. ^ "FindLaw's Supreme Court of California case and opinions".
  54. ^ "Hollywood Burbank Airport files environmental lawsuit against California's bullet train". Los Angeles Times. February 25, 2022.
  55. ^ "Central Valley Training Center Celebrates Graduates of 2022". December 9, 2022.
  56. ^ "California High-speed Rail Authority Releases 2022 Sustainability Report". October 10, 2022.
  57. ^ Official website: California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group
  58. ^ a b "Bold Bets: California on the Move?". The Atlantic. February 25, 2015. Video of event
  59. ^ California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group. "April 2022 Report" (PDF).
  60. ^ Eidlin, Eric (June 2015). "Making the Most of High-Speed Rail in California: Lessons from France and Germany".
  61. ^ "Blended Service". June 7, 2013. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  62. ^ "Promoting Intermodal Connectivity at California's High-Speed Rail Stations" (PDF). November 8, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  63. ^ "Promoting Intermodal Connectivity at California's High-Speed Rail Stations" (PDF). November 8, 2017. p. 2. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  64. ^ "The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report" (PDF). Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  65. ^ "An Updated Due Diligence Report" (PDF). Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  66. ^ Fallows, James (July 11, 2014). "California High-Speed Rail – the Critics' Case". The Atlantic.
  67. ^ Pandika, Melissa M. (March 3, 2013). "Caltrain electrification churns high-speed rail controversy". Peninsula Press. Archived from the original on April 1, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  68. ^ Mark DiCamillo (2022). Release #2022-08: Voters offer a wide range of issues they'd like the state to address (Report). UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
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External links[edit]