High-speed transportation is ideal for busy cities to reduce traffic congestion, decrease emissions and make it faster to get from point A to point B. California is currently in the process of linking its main cities with a bullet train that can travel at speeds up to 220 mph. The approval and construction process of the bullet train has faced numerous financial concerns and safety issues leaving people wondering what the future of the bullet train actually is considering it has a $64-billion price tag.
The project has faced opposition from major GOP politicians and even some residents that initially voted for the project. The primary issue is a financial one as California faces struggles with crumbling infrastructure and the feasibility of the bullet train system to actually improve the state while not harming other areas that desperately need funding.
Despite opposition, last week the state issued taxable construction bonds for the project under Governor Jerry Brown, who insists that the project will make the state a much better place and that the state can afford it. The project is being crippled by President Trump’s potential to freeze federal funds, which would impact the High-Speed Rail system and result in the taxpayers to pay the entire bill. This could significantly delay the project, putting it even further behind schedule and leaving the question of if it actually has a future or time has been wasted.
Construction for the project began in 2015 for the first segment originating in the central valley. With the opposition and numerous legal hurdles, the project is roughly seven years behind the original expectations. Utility and railroad company agreements hindered progress as well as the process of acquiring the property. The Federal Railroad Administration stated in December that the cost of this part of the system could cost approximately $10 billion, about 50 percent more than originally anticipated due to the challenges faced. Another hurdle emerged as Jeff Morales, chief executive of the bullet train, announced he’ll be leaving the agency in June.
Safety is yet another concern facing the project especially after a maintenance train sideswiped a commuter train and injured 33 people in New York last year. Individuals are concerned with trains traveling at speeds in excess of 200 mph parallel to other trains that could be transporting hazardous chemicals or toxic substances. Safety measures to include barriers have significantly increased the original quote for the project by an additional $140 million for 31 miles of barrier. Planners have decided to share tracks with the Caltrain commuter service in certain areas to save money, but this will reduce the train’s speed and impact the time requirements set in the original proposal to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under three hours.
Originally the project was expected to cost $33 billion and get commuters from Southern California to the Bay Area quickly. This projection is up to about four hours due to changing track configurations. Rider estimates have decreased from approximately 90 to 30 million per year, increasing ticket prices from an anticipated $50 to $80. These significant changes have continued to increase opposition and the future of the project is not looking promising.