High-Speed Rail Route to L.A. Coming Into View

Get a load of early plans for the bullet train’s SoCal ride

You wouldn’t know it by the scant media coverage, but construction of the state’s bullet train is in full swing around Fresno and the Central Valley. The California High-Speed Rail Authority will likely next build out the northern stretch—to Silicon Valley and San Francisco—but its narrowing in on how to get to Los Angeles and what that route will look like.

The board recently announced a redesign to the future stations, including the stop that will be built at our very own Union Station. Trains will be shorter than anticipated and platforms will be proportionately reduced, from 1,410 feet to 800 feet. The shorter trains—which will consist of about 10 train cars hitched together, instead of the previously proposed 20—will also mean shorter “refuge” tracks that are required for emergencies. With the refuge tracks will be cut by 600 feet, meaning the stations will be about 1,200 feet shorter than before.

The design change has both pluses and negatives. Financially, smaller stations mean cheaper stations and less real estate purchasing. A negative could be packed platforms should the train exceed ridership expectations when it opens in the next decade.

How this will affect Union Station is still unclear. While Metro has released plenty of information on their ambitious plans to redesign the rail hub and its surrounding parcels with a mix of developments, retail, and pedestrian-friendly amenities, the agency’s been coy about the bullet train stop. Metro is likely waiting for more guidance from the CHSRA, but a video on the Union Station Master Plan shows the platform going in on the east end of the station, close to Metro’s headquarters.

While the station area remains in limbo, preliminary CHSRA plans envision bullet trains entering L.A. via surface tracks, possibly the same tracks that the Metrolink commuter rail system uses; earlier plans had trains arriving on a raised viaduct. The trains will also likely cut right by Taylor Yard in Cypress Park, the site of long-awaited green space. A 2008 video shows trains traveling in a trench with the park above.

The Taylor Yard complications and the issue of how to enter Union Station are minor compared to getting the trains through the San Gabriel Mountains, where 24 miles of tunnels may need to be dug. Sounds like an impossible feat, but remember how we built a trans-continental railroad and a freeway system stretching through 50 states? This is nothing.