With the news that the California High Speed Rail Authority is on the verge of ditching the Southern California connection in favor of the cheaper Silicon Valley route, the country’s second-largest city is facing the prospect of missing out on high speed rail for decades to come.
The decision makes sense, given the financial hole that decision-makers have created for the system.
But Southern California doesn’t have to be left out completely. For potentially a fraction of the cost of expensive tunneling and mountain-hopping from Bakersfield to Burbank, the existing Amtrak line could be upgraded and connected to the Valley.
As I wrote about back in 2014, the current Amtrak connection in the interior of the state doesn’t even go all the way through to LA. Instead, it requires a bus transfer in Bakersfield over the Tehachapi mountains at the southern end of the Central Valley. Meanwhile, freight trains have a congested route from Bakersfield into Mojave that could be double-tracked in more places and opened to passenger rail service from Los Angeles.
So why not improve this route and boost passenger rail service? It could be a solid investment with immediate returns, and it would create a passenger base that could eventually be converted to high speed rail, whenever the state gets more money to finish the job.
And at this rate, that could be decades from now.