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Tomorrow, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will announce $8 billion in rail project stimulus grants, $2.25 billion of which will go to four initial segments of a high-speed rail system in California. One of those segments is the San Francisco to San Jose corridor. In addition, the California High-Speed Rail Authority could match the grant with money approved last year by voters in Proposition 1A — funds that only can be unlocked when matched — which brings the total amount to $4.5 billion.
However, construction along current Caltrain tracks will not likely begin for at least two years. All four segments are presently undergoing environmental reviews, and the rail authority doesn’t need to finish construction until September 2017 in order to maintain the grant.
Among other things, the plans call for electronically powered trains to roll on double tracks with no crossings, allowing trains to reach maximum speeds. The rail funding, billed as a jobs creator, was timed to coincide with Obama’s State of the Union address. Nevertheless, because the U.S. has never possessed the kind of bullet trains found in Europe and Asia, there are few (if any) U.S. engineering companies or manufacturers with experience in high-speed rail. Much of the technology for the new train systems could be very expensive and necessarily purchased abroad.
Eventually, if these upgrades do occur, regular trips to San Francisco could become a lot more feasible for the car-less at Stanford suffering from cases of campus fever.