Caltrans released its long-term vision for California’s statewide rail system earlier this week and it includes some lofty goals as it tries to shift the mode of transportation for residents of the nation’s most populous state.
The bold plan comes with a bolder price tag with projected costs to carry out the multitude of improvements that were outlined in the 2018 rail plan topping $130 billion. However, just $5 billion of that total has been identified and allocated for early action projects that are slated for completion in the next four years.
Nearly 40 million people call the Golden State home and Caltrans wants a lot more of them to take trains and other public transportation by 2040. One of the goals laid out is to increase current ridership, which sits at about 115,000 daily trips, to 1.3 million daily trips by 2040.
To do this Caltrans plans to expand its services to include everything from high-speed rail, with proposed routes branching out to Las Vegas and the Bay Area, to express buses and local rail projects, all of which it hopes to synchronize to deliver a more seamless experience for riders that could be taken on one ticket.
“The rail plan is designed to really improve connections from Long Beach to the statewide network with either express buses or urban transit connections to hub stations,” said Thomas Lawrence, a spokesman for Caltrans. “From Long Beach, that would include Los Angeles, LAX, Van Nuys or Santa Ana, and the goal would be to offer frequent time connections to trains, all of which could be accessed with a single ticket.”
The rail plan lays out three phases with accompanying price tags for the projects identified to potentially break ground during each period.
The initial $5 billion will see its projects completed by 2022. The second phase is projected to cost about $20 billion over a 10-year window extending to 2027. It includes proposals to initiate high-speed rail service to Las Vegas and Northern California as well as having integrated ticketing.
High-speed rail could travel as fast as 220 miles per hour if operating on a dedicated high-speed rail track, but it’s likely that trains will travel somewhere between 125 miles per hours and 220 miles per hour depending on the frequency of stops, the type of rail they may be operating on and the distance between stations.
The last phase, which has a projected cost of $119 billion, could expand high-speed rail service to Sacramento, San Diego and the Inland Empire.
Lawrence said that in the immediate future Long Beach could see projects that connect the city by way of express bus service to Santa Ana and Los Angeles Union Station. Lawrence said those two express lines are part of the funding that has already been “set in stone.”
Projects in the rail plan that are currently not funded but could be completed in the next ten years are express busses that would operate every half hour to connect Santa Monica and Long Beach to LAX. The 2040 phase, also not funded, could see the extension of urban rail like LA Metro and other bus routes to connecting points with statewide rail projects that have yet to be developed.
The order in which any of these projects are potentially carried out or funded will be fluid as it will rely on local transportation agencies like Metro and the Bay Area Rail Transportation System working in unison with other state agencies to better integrate their systems.
While funding for the entire rail plan has yet to be identified recent legislation like Senate Bill 1, which stands to generate about $5 billion annually for investment in public infrastructure, is already being tapped for transportation projects statewide. Other federal and state grant awards could also fund future projects.
The rail plan, which will release another update in 2022, is a federally mandated part of receiving future funding.
“Rail is a key part of the solution for addressing California’s transportation challenges,” said Caltrans Director Laurie Berman in a statement. “In this Rail Plan, we lay out the goals and investment strategies necessary in both the short- and long-term for improving access, mobility and efficiency for both our passenger and freight rail systems, while also making a major contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to the transportation sector.”
Jason Ruiz covers transportation for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or 951-310-1772.
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