State officials are considering using billions set aside for the California high-speed rail system to upgrade SoCal and NorCal train systems in the next few years so that they could eventually be incorporated into the bullet train project, the Los Angeles Times reports. Track electrification, grade separations, new bridges, and station improvements would help commuter trains move faster in the short-term and speed up the high-speed rail project. Initially the plan was to create exclusive rights-of-way for HSR, even around Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the new thinking is that the system could be a blend of shared and unshared track. Work on the Central Valley portion of the HSR route is set to start this year, and many people are concerned that the project will stall out before it hits the major cities. This new plan could help solve that potential problem. The improvements to existing tracks could be felt much earlier than the completion of the HSR project (currently scheduled for 2033)--the improvements could allow Amtrak and Metrolink trains to increase their top speeds from 79 to 110 mph. Officials at transportation agencies, including LA's, OC's, and SF's, support the plan, as does the Southern California Association of Governments, which previously considered dropping HSR from its regional transportation plan (a move that could have threatened federal funding). HSR board chairman Dan Richard supports the local spending. However, he also "said the assumption by some of the local agencies that state bond money alone could pay for improvements may contradict terms of Proposition 1A, the [high-speed rail] bond measure passed by voters."
· Transportation agencies seek bullet train funds to upgrade local corridors [LA Times]
· High-Speed Rail Archives [Curbed LA]