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California High-Speed Rail: A bumpy ride to success

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

By Andrew Duval Nov. 17, 2022

Twenty years ago, a trip from Shanghai to Beijing would have taken at least 12 hours by rail. Today, the trip has been shortened to as little as four and a half hours thanks to an extensive network of high-speed rails (HSR), or rail systems made to handle trains traveling at least 124 miles per hour—the fastest and most efficient form of ground transportation today. A project is currently underway to bring the first HSR to California. However, the California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) project has been plagued with difficulties, including delays, poor management, trouble securing land, engineering issues and a steep price tag.

Daniel Choi Art

The CAHSR Authority hopes to build several lines and have trains running by the end of the decade, with the main route extending from San Francisco to Los Angeles and passing through San Jose. However, The Guardian has found that though the project was approved in 2008 with a goal to have it operational by 2020, there has not been a single mile of track laid. Service is not expected to begin in San Jose until 2029. Additionally, despite the project’s initial proposed cost of $40 billion, the estimate has since grown to over $105 billion.

When requested for a statement on the cost overruns, CAHSR spokesperson Kyle Simerly stated that if all operations went according to plan, the project could be paid off as soon as 2040 due to high demand for the service.

“The delays and cost overruns for this project are acceptable if it means getting closer to building HSR in California. I hope to be able to ride it as soon as possible,” Freshman Tristan Mank said.

The project aims to lower housing costs by connecting areas with cheaper housing in the Central Valley to the Bay Area and other population centers. Simerly also claims that CAHSR will lead to significantly lower transport times and reduced emissions as high-speed rail runs on electricity—which is both cheaper and cleaner than transport by car or plane. CAHSR would also decrease traffic congestion by providing an alternative method of transportation, clearing up highways within the state.

Daniel Choi Art

Despite the grand promises, the project has run into many obstacles as work has commenced, with cost becoming one of its greatest adversaries. The New York Times reports that, based on engineers’ predictions, the rail system will not be completed by the end of this century at the current rate of spending. Opponents fear that the massive price tag of the project could draw money away from other projects and public resources.

The allocation of land for the project also displaces hundreds of residents and businesses in the train’s path, as reported by SFGATE. In addition, the initial promise of connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco has set a high bar for CAHSR to meet, compared to what could have been a much shorter but more feasible line between Los Angeles and San Diego.

“I do not support the project because $105 billion is a lot of money just to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles. The money could be better spent funding local projects instead. If the line does end up being completed and CAHSR charges a reasonable price, then I would consider it as an option,” Junior Hillary Chen said.

Although the project currently lacks the funds required to complete all of the planned rail lines, Simerly has stated that the Authority has the money to build the initial operating segment located in the Central Valley. While many other large infrastructure projects had significant amounts of federal funding, CAHSR has yet to receive such funding, so there is potential for more financial backing in the future.

Politics have also handicapped the CAHSR project. According to The New York Times, lawmakers have begun to lose hope in the project and have diverted funds towards local rail lines instead, believing that any further investment would be a waste of money. In addition, since the initial project proposal, instead of running a direct line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the route was diverted inland under former Mayor of Los Angeles County Mike Antonovich’s lobbying. The change added 41 miles to the route and as much as $8 billion to the already high costs.

Despite the obstacles, delays and cost overruns, public support for the project remains relatively strong. According to San Jose Spotlight, supporters of HSR in California outnumber dissidents five to three. With billions of dollars already spent on the project, the CAHSR Authority is working to fulfill its promises one track at a time.


About the Contributors

Andrew Duval

Staff Writer

Andrew Duval is a Freshman writer for The Charger Account. He spends his spare time surfing Wikipedia, reading, and editing videos.

Daniel Choi


Daniel Choi is a sophomore at Leland High School and an artist for The Charger Account. During his free time, he enjoys to watch shows, do art, and play video games.

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