California’s high-speed rail project promises to reduce the Los Angeles to San Francisco trip to less than three hours. Some other facts:
Q: How fast will it be compared to other high-speed trains?
A: About average, with top speeds of about 200 mph. That’s similar to trains in Europe, but pokey compared to China’s CRH380A engine, which at 302 mph is the world’s fastest way to travel on land. A Japanese maglev train in development has topped 310 mph in tests. The fastest train in the U.S. is Amtrak’s Acela Express, which reaches 105 mph on a short stretch between Baltimore and Wilmington, Delaware, but slows elsewhere to make stops between New York and Washington.
Q: How much will it cost to ride?
A: Current estimates are between $81 and $89 one-way from San Francisco to Los Angeles, similar to a discount airline fare and about twice what gasoline would cost to drive there in a typical car.
Q: How does the trip compare to planes and cars?
A: If this train manages to deliver passengers on time, it could beat a direct flight between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which takes an hour and 20 minutes but involves airport travel hassles. Driving the 400-mile journey takes more than six hours even with little traffic.
Q: How much will it cost to build?
A: The current price tag is $68 billion. California’s High-Speed Rail Authority says that’s cheaper than building dozens of new airport runways and highways to accommodate a state population expected to hit 46 million by 2035.
Q: Who will pay to build it?
A: Voters approved nearly $10 billion in bonds for rail construction and improvements to existing lines. The Obama administration added $3.3 billion in federal financing. Authorities hope private development around stations will help pay for the rest.
Q: Where will it go?
A: The first stretch linking the Central Valley to the Burbank airport should open in seven years. Then it will reach north to San Jose, and south to Palmdale and the San Fernando Valley. By 2029 — 14 years from now — a full 520 miles should link San Francisco’s downtown Transbay Terminal to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.