Is High Speed Rail in California Just a Dream?

A week after Gavin Newsom gave his first State of the State address, the situation with high speed rail is as murky as ever. The new govenor made a concerted effort to lay out the issues he feels need immediate action: rail, water, energy, migrants, an aging population, homelessness, and home affordability. But on the first issue of rail, Newsom’s drastic course correction left many scratching their heads.

“Let’s level about the high-speed rail,” Newsom said. “Let’s be real, the current project as planned would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long… Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were. However, we do have the capacity to complete a high speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield.”

Some, like Scott Wiener, seemed to indicate that it’s just a first step.

If that’s the case, Govenor Newsom should more forcefully lay out the steps that will get the project back on sound footing and not just leave it at, “Let’s get something done once and for all.” Because we know that the inability to connect the Central Valley to a major metropolitan center will ultimately be a proverbial bridge to nowhere.


A successful high speed rail system will alleviate some burdens of home affordability and shrink the state by making commute times much shorter. If most of the new jobs are being created in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, or even in cities like San Diego and Sacramento, a connection with one of those hubs needs to be made.

California voters approved this project over ten years ago. Govenor Newsom, this is the job you signed up for. Make the arguments that pursuade the stake holders, increase the sorely lacking transparency, rein in the costs and timelines. The goal of this project wasn’t to unlock the potential of the valley, it was to unlock the potential of California. The vision of a connected California is still achievable.


Map by Foster & Partners; estimated time table is from SPUR analysis of California High-Speed Rail Authority data and Google Maps traffic data.