USA: The state of California appears finally to be on course to complete the Initial Operating Section of its high speed rail network between Bakersfield and Merced after the programme was allocated $4·2bn in the annual state budget on June 30.
The Central Valley high speed line was one of a raft of rail and public transport investments totalling $14·8bn set out in Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget. California High Speed Rail Authority is now in a position to finalise construction to enable ‘a high speed rail interim service line’ between Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield. This would complete a 270 km section of the original 1 300 km state-wide programme set out in 2009.
Construction is already underway at multiple locations along the starter segment, and procurement of rolling stock and railway systems is now expected to start in the coming months. CHSRA said in February last year that it hoped revenue services would begin on part of the IOS before the end of the decade.
The programme has faced fierce local opposition amid mounting criticism that the IOS would serve neither Los Angeles nor San Francisco, as envisaged when CHSRA set out the ‘Bay to Basin’ vision. However, on June 10 CHSRA issued a final environmental impact statement for the 69 km section between San Jose and San Francisco, which would largely be shared with the existing Caltrain commuter rail corridor now being electrified.
Under the EIS, high speed trains would use an ‘interim station’ at 4th & King streets in San Francisco until a connection to the designated terminus at Salesforce Transit Center can be completed. An interchange at Millbrae would provide access via BART metro services to and from San Francisco International Airport. Both of these existing Caltrain stations are to be remodelled to accommodate high speed services.