(photo credit: California High Speed Rail Commission)
California has never shied away from boldly implementing public policies that transform the way its residents live their lives. Executing the first high-speed rail system in the country is no exception. It is a momentous project that is creating tens of thousands of jobs and will reduce traffic on highways and cut air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the High Speed Rail Authority, by 2029, the system will run from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under three hours at speeds capable of over 200 miles per hour. The rail system will eventually serve the Sacramento and San Diego areas, with 24 stations throughout California.
ACEC California continues to strongly support the project, and its members will be instrumental in the continuing progress towards a full build out. Californians will significantly benefit from this type of alternative transportation system because it will:
- Provide long distance commuters with a safe, convenient, and affordable alternative to flying or driving.
- Reduce increases in air traffic and the need to expand capacity at the state’s airports.
- Reduce California’s dependence on oil.
- Enhance economic opportunities statewide through improved connectivity.
- Create new commercial and industrial hubs along the rail alignment.
Finally, the high-speed rail system will also utilize alternative procurement methods such as Design-Build and Public Private Partnerships, which will produce efficient and economical delivery of the project’s final completion.
High Speed Rail System Progress
After voters passed Proposition 1A in 2008, the California High Speed Rail Commission has pushed forward with the first Phase to build outward from the Central Valley to connect southern and northern California.
The CA HSR’s first Construction Package (CP 1) in Phase 1 is underway in the Central Valley, with the construction area covering a 29-mile stretch in counties of Madera and Fresno. It includes 12 grade separations (i.e. overpasses and underpasses), 2 viaducts, 1 tunnel and a major river crossing over the San Joaquin River. In the phase there are currently 40 small businesses with active contracts on CP 1 valued at $296 million.
The Authority also recently adopted a new 2016 business plan that outlines the sequencing approach for Phase 1 to connect the San Francisco Bay Area to the Los Angeles Basin through the Central Valley. The new business plan was adopted in April 2016 and will include:
- Early investments in the Burbank to Los Angeles/Anaheim corridor.
- The addition of the Merced Station stop as part of initial high-speed rail service, which will provide a less than one hour ride to San Jose.
- Improved connections to Amtrak via a connecting station in Madera.
- A more robust discussion of the broader rail modernization effort in both Southern and Northern California, where high-speed rail will link to improved service provided by intercity, commuter and urban rail agencies.