You may be inclined to think that you will never live to see a high-speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles and depending on your age and overall health you may be correct. But the project is moving forward, however slowly, and broke ground over a year ago in Fresno despite an enormous funding gap and ongoing disagreements over the necessary land acquisitions. Now, as the SF Chronicle reports, there's been a change of plans by the California High Speed Rail Authority, with a move set for approval to build the Bay Area segment of the line ahead of a planned, more logistically difficult and costly segment connecting Burbank and Los Angeles.
The reason for this is an injection of funding for Caltrain and the electrification of Caltrain's tracks between San Francisco and Gilroy. The electrification project still has a $440 million funding gap, but that's after $125 million in federal money just allocated by the President in next year's budget. Electrifying the Caltrain system is the first step in modernizing the rail corridor in preparation for high-speed trains though at present, the plan is not to have those trains travel at high speed up the Peninsula, because of the shared rail line with Caltrain, and NIMBY issues there.
Also, regulators believe they will be able to drum up more public interest and private investment if they can get the Bay Area segment built sooner, and series of tunnels necessary to build the final LA segment has the potential to be delayed much further.
The rail authority has not, however, officially announced this change of plan.
Right now, the aim is to have the entire $68 billion rail line operational by 2028 or 2029, with the initial Central Valley segment possibly open by 2022, connecting Bakersfield to the tiny town of Borden, just south of Madera. Ultimately, the trip from SF to LA is supposed to take less than three hours, with a projected ticket price of $97.