California authorities will begin accepting electric train manufacturers’ Request for Qualifications proposals (RFQs) by the end of the year, the latest stage of the state’s long-gestating, high-speed rail line. Although voters approved initial funding back in 2008, the decades’ long project has since encountered repeated setbacks and financial issues. Construction sites finally began making headway in 2015, and nearly 422 miles between the Los Angeles Basin and the Bay Area have since been “environmentally cleared for the project,” the Los Angeles Times recently reported.
Once selected and constructed, the high-speed trains would be tested at maximum speed of 242 mph while traversing a 171-mile starter segment connecting Central Valley’s Bakersfield and Merced. Rail authorities will select the final manufacturer during the first quarter of 2024, with an eye to debut a pair of functioning prototypes by 2028 for trials. According to the High-Speed Rail Authority’s announcement, whoever is chosen to provide the train cars will also agree to oversee train set maintenance for 30 years.
In a statement, Board Chair Tom Richards described the latest phase “allows us to deliver on our commitment to meet our federal grant timelines to start testing,” adding that, “This is an important milestone for us to deliver high-speed rail service in the Central Valley and eventually into Northern and Southern California.”
California’s high speed rail project is one of several in development across the US, each facing their own logistical and funding issues. Earlier this month, Amtrak announced a partnership with Texas Central to begin seeking grants for a bullet train line that could travel between Houston and Dallas in under 90 minutes. Similar high-speed train routes are underway to connect Las Vegas and Los Angeles, as well as San Francisco and LA. Both of those projects have also encountered significant delays. Such projects could greatly help transition the US towards greener public transport methods—Amtrak’s proposed Texas project, for example, could save as much as 65 million gallons of fuel per year, cut greenhouse gas emissions by over 100,000 tons annually, and remove an estimated 12,500 cars per day from the region’s I-45 corridor.
Over 30 construction sites along Central Valley’s high-speed railway are currently active. Although backers hope the project will begin public service by the end of the decade, a recent progress report notes delays could push completion as far as 2033.