The California bullet train project, which will take passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco, is now facing cost increases and delays in construction. The 218-mile rail system, proposed by the private railway company Brightline, will shuttle passengers on electric-powered bullet trains that reach up to 220 miles per hour.
The rail system was first proposed in 2008 with a budget of $33 billion, but that budget has since increased to $128 billion. Construction is currently focused on a 170-mile stretch between Bakersfield and Merced in the Central Valley. Officials originally estimated that the route would be ready by 2030, but now updates may push that deadline to sometime between 2030 and 2033.
Speeding up or slowing down?
New construction and recent changes, such as adding light maintenance facilities, have driven costs up for the Central Valley stretch. The California High Speed Rail Authority is currently constructing 119 miles of guideways and structures. To fully connect Merced and Bakersfield, and to support the speed of the trains, an additional 52 miles are being added.
Construction is now estimated at $35.3 billion, up 41% from 2022. According to project leaders, the bullet train will need additional funding to finish the Bakersfield line. The CHSRA is banking on a potential $8 billion federal grant as part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure law to keep the California bullet train project afloat.
However, according to spokesperson Micah Flores, about 6 million passengers could ride the Central Valley section alone, and the project would generate 10,000 jobs while keeping more than 3,500 tons of harmful pollutants out of the air every year.
Sixty years ago, two major infrastructure projects were started in the San Joaquin Valley that helped modernize California: the State Water Project and Interstate 5. But unlike those projects, which were popular with politicians and the public alike, today’s bullet train project is struggling.
But no other form of transportation connects people across expansive distances like high speed railways. Particularly in a state as large as California, traveling from Los Angeles in the South to San Francisco in the North takes the same amount of time whether by plane or train. A modern, eco-friendly train, however, will have far less carbon emissions, and will give passengers a chance to see not just the Central Valley of California up close, but the best small towns in the Central Valley too.