California high-speed rail takes “major” step

The California High-Speed Rail Authority took one giant leap in the state’s goal of building a railway that will connect San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles.

On Friday, the agency released its final environmental document regarding a 30-mile segment of rail line that will stretch between the cities of Palmade and Burbank in Southern California. According to a press release, the document was the “last key environmental document needed” and marks “a major milestone over a decade in the making.”

“This is a huge milestone for the project and it represents the culmination of years of analysis and stakeholder engagement to connect high-speed rail between two of the state’s major metropolitan centers, San Francisco and Los Angeles,” said Brian Kelly, CEO of the Rail Authority.

The environmental document will be presented to the Rail Authority’s Border of Directors during a two-day meeting on June 26 and June 27, according to the release. Connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles is “Phase 1” of the authority’s overall goal of building a high-speed rail that runs through Northern, Central and Southern California.

A map from the California High-Speed Rail Authority shows the planned creation of a high-speed rail between Palmdale and Burbank in Southern California. The segment is part of the authority’s push to build a railway…

The California High-Speed Rail Authority

The authority has said that the track to connect two of California’s most populous cities will be capable of reaching speeds of over 200 mph and make the trip time between San Francisco and Los Angeles under three hours. It takes a little over six hours to drive between the cities.

The section of the track between Palmade and Burbank will be able to reach speeds of up to 220 mph, according to Friday’s release. The authority said that this section of the track will make the trip from Antelope Valley to San Fernando Valley a roughly 17-minute trip, “more than twice as fast as traveling by car.”

The environmental document release Friday includes analysis of six alternative builds for the rail line segment between Palmade and Burbank.

“Pending Board approval, the Authority can begin preparing this segment for construction as funding becomes available,” read the release. “All that remains to environmentally clear the full 494-mile Phase 1 system of the project is the Los Angeles to Anaheim segment, which the Authority expects to finalize next year.”

Phase 2 of the project will extend the railway north from Merced to Sacramento and in the southern direction from Los Angeles to San Diego, according to the authority’s website.

A spokesperson for the Rail Authority told Newsweek Friday night that while there is not an estimated time frame for completion of all of Phase 1, the team does “feel confident” about opening service for the Central Valley—which includes Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties—from 2030 to 2033.

“To move beyond that and create a timeline for the entire trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, [Kelly] has repeatedly stressed the need for the state to extend funding into the 2030s,” said Jim Patrick, director of communications for the authority’s Southern California operations. “So we don’t have a time estimate for completion beyond the Central Valley.”

A separate project by Brightline West aims to build a high-speed rail line connecting Las Vegas and the greater Los Angeles area by the 2028 Olympics. That line would reach speeds of over 186 mph and stretch 218 miles, from Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga, California.