California’s controversial high-speed rail system inched a bit closer to finally laying track recently when the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board, after much hemming and hawing, announced the train’s preferred route and station alignment for its first section, the Merced to Fresno Route.
The approved route, known as the “hybrid” route, was put forward earlier this month by agency staff. The route was one of five originally considered for the section before the choices were narrowed down to a final three routes in draft environmental impact reports in August. The 65-mile hybrid route closely follows Highway 99 north before jogging east to miss the city of Madera. The route then connects with a station in Merced. Other stops along the route include a station in Fresno.
The Merced to Fresno section of the project has an estimated price tag of around $3.8 to $4.8 billion. Earlier, the Obama administration underscored its support of the project when Joseph Szabo, chief of the Federal Railroad Administration, told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, that the agency would not back down from the $3.3 billion they had pledged to fund the section. “We are not going to flinch on that support,” he said. “The worst thing we could do is make obligations to folks and start to renege on our word.”
The California high-speed rail project is a massive undertaking that seeks to connect the Bay Area and Sacramento to Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Diego via 800 miles of high-speed trains and 24 stations. According to backers, once completed, passengers will be able to board a train, which can hit speeds of up to 220 mph, in LA and arrive in San Francisco in two hours and forty minutes. Estimates put the entire cost of the project, which has a completion date of 2033, at nearly $100 billion.