Local leaders map out high-speed rail tracks

Although connecting the Bay Area and Southern California has been given priority status for the state’s high-speed rail project, local leaders still need to decide where tracks will be laid, and for what price.

With an estimated travel time between San Francisco and Los Angeles of approximately two and a half hours and a ticket price no higher than $50, the high-speed line — similar to those in Japan and Europe — could offer a shorter overall travel time than an airline flight for less than the price of two tanks of gas.

Twenty-one different possibilities were mapped out Thursday by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to connect the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The most expensive options for the routes will also be the ones most appealing to Bay Area commuters.

The options focus on two different routes through the hills, one at Altamont Pass in Livermore and the other through Pacheco Pass through Gilroy.

Travelers moving between San Francisco and Los Angeles will not see much of a difference between the two, but a Pacheco Pass route would almost double the amount of time it takes for passengers to get from San Francisco or Oakland to Sacramento, with only approximately $300,000 in savings overall.

The authority also needs to decide how the trains will move around the Bay Area. Crossing the Bay — on the Dumbarton Bridge or through the Transbay Tube — would shorten the travel time for commuters, but raise construction costs.

The trains — which can reach speeds above 200 miles per hour — will only stop at select stations, including SFO, Oakland Airport and San Jose’s Diridon Station, chosen for their connections to other local transit lines.

Deciding the Northern California rail routes will help the authority determine the financing plan needed to make high-speed rail a reality.

Executive Director Mehdi Morshed said the $40 billion price tag of the project will likely be handled by a three-way split of state money, federal funds and private sector contributions.

The authority will hold a series of public meetings in impacted cities during July. Environmental impact reviews will begin Aug. 23 in San Francisco.

By the numbers

» Could carry up to 117 million passengers annually by 2030.

» Could save approximately 22 million barrels of oil annually.

» Could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 17.6 billion bounds annually by 2030.

– Source: California High-Speed Rail Authority

jgoldman@examiner.com

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