High-speed train connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles a long way from finished

California bullet train
Photo courtesy of California High Speed Rail Association.

San Francisco is known for its robust and accessible public transportation. A big upgrade is on the horizon in the form of a high-speed rail that will connect the city to Los Angeles. The project’s initial budget was $43 billion, but that number is now closer to $98 billion.

The high speed rail was approved in the 2008 ballot that included a 130-mile test track from Merced to Bakersfield. The test track is not currently up to environmental standards, which need to be remedied by March 2012. According to the High Speed Rail Authority, the total length of the final track be a 520-mile stretch from Los Angeles to San Francisco and the trains are expected to travel at 220 mph.

According to the California High Speed Rail Authority press release, the project will create an estimated 100,000 jobs over the next five years.

William Tsui, a San Francisco resident and frequent commuter to Southern California, supports the project and the potential impact it will have on commuting prices.

“I think it’s a good idea for when its finally finished,” Tsui said. “It will hopefully create a lot of jobs in the meantime. I go to SoCal every so often, but I fly. If this rail system had competitive pricing it would be great for the market.”

Rachel Wall, spokesman for the High Speed Rail, said $950 million of the budget is to be used by inner-city rail systems that will connect to the High Speed Rail.

“The bond measure passed in 2008 provided us with $9 billion and $950 million for inner city passenger rail,” Wall said. “What that means is that existing services can use that $950 million to improve service or connect to High Speed Rail. Our new business plan shows that we are building a train to other trains and how to connect them. We want to work with these other agencies to show them what projects they can fund with that money and how to better improve their service.”

BART officials are unsure about a possible connection to the rail.

“It remains to be seen if it will go to Millbrae,” said BART spokesman Jim Allison. “There is not much to say about it. Anything that makes public transportation more available for people and gets people out of their cars and into different forms of transportation that are better for the environment, we are all for. But it all comes down to the money. In theory it’s a great idea.”

Wall said the test track is expected to be completed between 2015 and 2017 and after that private investors and federal loans, grants and bonds will fund the full project.