Building in Phases
California is taking a “phased network” approach to its high-speed rail system, meaning it will be constructed in segments over time, in coordination with upgrades to other systems. Each new segment will integrate the high-speed line more fully with conventional lines and transit systems already in use. The power of the network will multiply as it becomes denser and its reach expands.
The first segment of the line is currently under construction. That 170-mile segment—which will run through the center of the state, from Madera to Bakersfield—is projected to be completed by 2027.
A second segment, modernizing the San Francisco to San Jose CalTrain line, is also under construction.
Connecting them will require tunnels that run through the mountains between the Central and Santa Clara valleys. Once that connecting segment is complete, a single-seat ride from San Francisco to Bakersfield will be possible.
Central Valley Line
The first, 170-mile segment of high-speed line—the backbone of the whole system—is now being built in the Central Valley. It’s the keystone of the statewide plan, and it will feature dedicated, grade-separated tracks designed for 220-mph operations.
Coordinated, simultaneous improvements to existing rail systems—including the Altamont Commuter Express, the Capitol Corridor, and the San Joaquin service—will provide expanded and improved rail service throughout northern California, connecting the Central Valley high-speed line with the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento regions.
Buses will meet trains in Bakersfield to connect passengers to multiple destinations in the Los Angeles metro area.
Caltrain Electrification—San Jose to San Francisco
Existing Caltrain service from San Jose to San Francisco will be electrified and upgraded, which will allow high-speed trains to share tracks with new, high-performance commuter trains. Caltrain and the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) are sharing the cost of this project, which is key to linking San Francisco and the Silicon Valley to the rest of the state's rail network.
Pacheco Pass Tunnels
Connecting the Central Valley directly to Silicon Valley and San Francisco will require tunneling through the mountain range that separates them. (The Pacheo Pass, which is the route that runs through that mountain range, does not currently have railroad tracks.) The northern point of this construction will be San Jose. Trains will continue from there, on the upgraded Caltrain corridor, to San Francisco.
South of Bakersfield, at the southern end of the Central Valley line, the Tehachapi Mountains pose a major barrier to creating a north-south passenger rail connection. These mountains contain the famed Tehachapi Loop, a slow but busy single-track railroad that lacks the capacity for passenger trains. Amtrak passengers currently use connecting buses between Bakersfield and Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Area and Southern California
CHSRA is coordinating with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) and other agencies on several projects that will improve service in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. Specifically, LACMTA is working on a strategic analysis of the Metrolink Antelope Valley commuter line that provides a path from the north (Palmdale) into Los Angeles' Union Station. Upgrading that line is a high priority because it will ensure sufficient Metrolink commuter service to meet the needs of the high-speed rail system as it reaches Palmdale.
Connection to DesertXpress
At Palmdale, just south of Lancaster, the proposed 63-mile High Desert Corridor freeway will link Palmdale with Victorville, which is the southern terminus of another planned high-speed rail project—the DesertXpress line to Las Vegas.
The expressway right-of-way could include high-speed rail tracks linking the DesertXpress with California’s main high-speed rail system. The DesertXpress has received environmental clearance, and the developers are working to assemble financing.