California’s High Speed Rail System

California High Speed RailIn the Fall 2008, California voters approved a $10 billion bond to construct the first phase of a $40 billion electric high speed rail system. No other state in the nation has allocated this much money toward high speed rail transportation. The state-of-the-art system, slated to begin construction this year and be completed by 2029, will eventually span 800 miles and connect major metropolitan hubs and airports throughout the state, making it one of the largest infrastructure systems in the world. Finally, the United States will catch up with the rest of the world’s industrialized nations, all of which have such systems in operation.


The California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) contends that the system will relieve the state’s already strained highways and airports from the additional demand stemming from a burgeoning population, projected to increase by another 30% by 2030. That means the 5 million air passengers that currently fly between Los Angeles and the Bay Area will likely increase to nearly 6.5 million. The rail system is projected to cost the state two to three times less than the estimated $158 billion needed to expand freeways and airports and it will result in a much faster and cheaper system to transport people and goods throughout the state.

An additional benefit will be a much needed boost to both the regional and local economies as a result of the creation of tens of thousands of jobs and the greater ease of movement of California’s residents. In addition to new construction jobs for both the rail lines and trains, there will be significant secondary job creation related to the operation and maintenance of the system, suppliers, and businesses at or near stations along the route. The economic boost occurring around new stations will likely result in the revitalization of entire communities. With the start of construction in 2013, an estimated 20,000 jobs will be produced each year for five years. The connection of Los Angeles and San Francisco will result in another 66,000 jobs per year for 15 years with Phase 1 expected to generate a total of 2,900 permanent operations jobs. About 450,000 permanent new jobs are expected to be created over 25 years.

According to the CHSRA, California’s initial investment of $2.6 billion from Proposition 1A bond funds will have a total net economic impact of $8.3 to $8.8 billion. In addition, state and local governments will generate more than $600 million in tax revenues.

Proposed Route

When complete by 2029, the system will include 800 miles of track and up to 24 stations. The first connection will be between San Francisco and Los Angeles with passengers being transported through the Central Valley in just under 2-1/2 hours at speeds up to 220 miles per hour. Future phases will extend the system south to San Diego and north to Sacramento. Interconnection with existing transportation systems is a top priority.

Environmental Impact

The proposed system is all electric and designed to use sustainable and renewable power sources (i.e., wind and solar) reducing reliance on foreign oil by about 12.7 million barrels every year. Energy efficiency far surpasses that of airplanes and automobiles reducing air pollution by approximately 12 billion pounds of greenhouse gasses annually. 

The massive project underwent more thorough environmental review process than any other in the nation. Surprisingly, the final environmental impact report (EIR) did not encounter significant opposition from any major California environmental organizations, primarily due to placement of proposed routes within existing transit corridors and a concerted effort to avoid environmentally sensitive areas. Nevertheless, several national groups, such as the Sierra Club, express doubt about the reliability of the state’s environmental study.

Key Players

The CHSRA is responsible for designing, constructing, and eventually operating the rail system. They awarded a contract to JV Partners to study and design the routes through Central California (from Fresno to Palmdale). JV Partners subcontracted with Bender Rosenthal, Inc., a commercial and right-of-way valuation group based in Sacramento, to obtain right-of-entry permits from property owners along the study route.

Written by Janet E. Baker, Webmaster & Editor

International Realty Valuation, Inc.

Sources: IbisWorld – “The U.S. Railroad & Logistics Industry”, Association of American Railways, Railway Age, California High Speed Rail Authority, San Diego Union-Tribune

© International Realty Valuation, Inc., 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to International Realty Valuation, Inc. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the Author

Comments are closed.