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High-Speed Rail system breaks ground

The new railway is set to span 800 miles once completed.

The new railway is set to span 800 miles once completed.

Courtesy | California High-Speed Rail

The new railway is set to span 800 miles once completed.

Courtesy | California High-Speed Rail

Courtesy | California High-Speed Rail

The new railway is set to span 800 miles once completed.

High-Speed Rail system breaks ground

January 8, 2015

The California High-Speed Rail Authority held a groundbreaking ceremony in Fresno on Tuesday for the first high-speed rail system in the country.

California Governor Jerry Brown led the ceremony for the project originally conceived in his first term in the early 1980’s. CHRA set 2029 as the completion date for the upcoming “bullet train.”

California voters approved the initial funding of the project in 2008 and allocated nearly $10 billion in bonds to start phase one of the rail construction that will run from San Francisco to Los Angeles in three hours.

Local railroad systems along the proposed route will serve as “feeders” for the high-speed system. Voters also approved $950 million to improve the current local systems.

Grants and fees implemented by President Barack Obama following the initial approval of funds could potentially lead to $1 billion every year for the project. According to the CHRA, “As of 2014 the project’s estimated year of expenditure cost is $68.4 billion.”

The CHRA faced several environmental issues along the proposed route and did not acquire all of the land ahead of time, which stifled funding. There is still over $50 billion in unsecured funds for the project during groundbreaking time.

“We don’t have the money yet but we will,” Gov. Brown said. “That’s why I am here, to fast track this and turn that corner.”

CHRA chairman Dan Richard is well aware of the financial and legal issues surrounding the project but feels, “advertising and real estate development rights along the route could lead to additional funding for the project.”

In 2012, due to the acquiring the necessary land taking longer than expected, and forced a delay of construction for two more years.

CHRA is hopeful that private investors and additional funding will come once a working piece of the rail is fully functional. According to Richard, the first part of construction will be a bridge over the Fresno River and will begin in April or May.

The delayed start puts a huge portion of the funding for the project at risk. $4 billion must be spent on the project by Oct. 1, 2017 or all remaining funds from the $4 billion will have to be returned to investors. $2 billion came from federal grants and the other $2 billion came from the state of California who matched the initial grants.

The $68.4 billion rail project will travel upwards of 200 miles per hour. The route will be extended as far north as Sacramento and as far South as San Diego covering 800 miles with 22 stops in between once it’s complete.

“I drive to LA twice a month, all my family is there. It takes me six to seven hours every time not to mention the gas,” San Bruno resident Alexander Hall said. “This rail thing would have me there in half the time I just wish it would be done sooner.”

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