California Brings High-Speed Rail to North America
High-speed rail (HSR) lines exist in 14 countries globally. Canada is not one of them, but the United States may soon be. A new plan for HSR in California is being touted as one of the best.
The State is planning an 800-mile HSR line—though the project’s budget and design is now being reassessed. Connecting San Francisco to San Jose, through the Central Valley to Los Angeles and Anaheim, the project aims to create 600,000 construction jobs and 450,000 new permanent jobs within 25 years.
The federal government allocated $2.34 billion to the project in 2010—a far cry from the estimated $43-billion project cost.
One of the planning authority’s proposed amendments is to integrate the existing and upgraded rail systems with the new HSR system simultaneously, which, according to the California High Speed Rail Authority’s (CHSRA’s) website, would manage state dollars more effectively. The revised plan integrates HSR improvements with existing and upgraded rail systems.
The CHSRA and the Federal Railroad Administration—the state and federal agencies responsible for the environmental review of the HSR system—have implemented a more transparent, collaborative, and inclusive approach to the environmental impact statement and report process than is typical or required. State and local planning agencies, local communities, and the general public have all been included in the process of building a business plan. Considerations include updated state travel data, including the impact of newly-expanded low-cost airlines, trip-making patterns, and fuel-efficiency assumptions.
Japan has been moving people at high speeds since the 1960s, when much of North America was still focussed on the first major build of our now aging highways and roads. France put the Train Grande Vitesse (TGV) into operation in the 1970s. This year, China set the world record in high speed rail, with a plastic and carbon fibre train travelling at 500 kilometers per hour (Japan’s bullet train runs at around 200 kilometres per hour).
California’s new system is expected to be running by 2028, with trains travelling at just over 300 kilometres per hour.
Countries with HSR lines in operation: