A representative of the California High-Speed Rail Authority was in San Francisco on Thursday to talk about the train system’s near- and long-term plans in the Bay Area.
Ben Tripousis, regional director for Northern California, told a packed auditorium at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association that the under-three-hour trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles could be a reality by 2029, but that a host of political, financial and logistical obstacles must be overcome before high-speed trains reach the Bay Area.
“To quote Ben Franklin, ‘We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately,’” Tripousis said.
One of the keys to making the 800-mile system a reality is moving ahead with early investments in local transportation corridors that will eventually accommodate high-speed trains, Tripousis said.
“Here in the Bay Area, our focus is largely on the electrification of Caltrain,” he said.
As part of the $8 billion high-speed rail funding plan approved by the state Legislature in July, more than $700 million was committed to the electrification of Caltrain between San Francisco and San Jose. Additional investments were committed to other Bay Area agencies, including BART, which is slated to receive $145 million, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which will receive $61 million.
San Francisco Director of Transportation Policy Gillian Gillett said that the modernization of Caltrain and the eventual accommodation of high-speed rail in San Francisco offers a chance to revitalize certain areas of The City, such as redeveloping a plot of more than 20 acres around Mission Bay that is currently used by Caltrain as a storage yard.
High-speed rail also is expected to stimulate the region’s economic growth by allowing San Francisco International Airport to concentrate on expanding long-distance and international airline service, instead of continuing to be bogged down by north-south regional flights, Gillett said.
“We are reaching our limits in the air,” she said.
Construction on the first operating phase of the rail system — a 130-mile stretch between the Central Valley cities of Madera and Bakersfield — is expected to start in July.