After years of planning, construction for a high-speed rail train connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles began on Jan. 6 with a groundbreaking ceremony in Fresno, Calif.
Once finished, the bullet train will be the first of its kind within the United States, though bullet trains have been successful in countries such as China, France and Japan. According to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, sections of the train, including the initial operating section between Merced, Calif. and the San Fernando Valley, which is expected to be running by 2022, will be operational before the completion date of 2029. The high-speed rail will have the capacity to travel the roughly 400 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles in three hours, moving at speeds up to 200 miles per hour, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The route will also include extensions to Sacramento and San Diego.
At the ceremony for the high-speed rail, California Gov. Jerry Brown addressed concerns over the cost of the high speed-rail project.
“It’s not that expensive,” Brown said. “We can afford it. In fact, we cannot not afford it.”
Another official at the ceremony, Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, added to Brown’s statements and spoke to the environmental benefits of the high-speed rail.
“High-speed rail is good for our health, it is good for our climate and it is good for our economy,” McCarthy said.
The bullet train is expected to provide an alternative to environmentally harmful options such as airplanes and cars, eventually reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere by 12 billion pounds annually, according to a report put out by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
In addition, the high speed train will create as many as 67,000 jobs, in construction and other sectors of employment, annually for 15 years in California.
Despite these predicted benefits, the bullet train plan sparked controversy and faced a great deal of opposition in Palo Alto and beyond.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Palo Alto, along with several other Bay Area cities and environmental agencies, sued the state in an attempt to block the high-speed train from its path, claiming the route violated the California Environmental Quality Act. The lawsuit was settled in 2013, concluding with victory for the California High-Speed Rail.
Many argue that the $68 billion price tag for the project is far too costly for California to spare in its current economic state.
Others raised concern about the issue of noise, especially around the populated areas that the train plans to run through.
In face of the difficulties the high speed train is expected to face and widespread doubt, Brown remained optimistic during the ceremony while signing his name on a piece of railroad track.
“The high-speed rail links us from the past to the future, from the south to Fresno and north; this is truly a California project bringing us together today,” Brown said.