On September 6, Governor Brown signed a bill sponsored by Senator Jerry Hill which closes a loophole in the High Speed Rail funding bill which could have allowed funding the the legislature dedicated for Caltrain modernization to be used instead in other parts of the state. The measure is especially important now, since the High Speed Rail project has run into some legal setbacks and construction delays. If the High Speed Rail project encounters more delays and cost overruns in the Central Valley, the Authority might have been tempted to use money appropriated for the Northern and Southern California bookends. The new law ensures that the funding will be used as the legislature intended.
The law also provides assurance that High Speed Rail will be implemented in the Peninsula Corridor as a “blended system” in which Caltrain and High Speed Rail will share tracks. To go beyond the “blended system”, the funding partners who signed the “Memorandum of Understanding” will all need to agree. This provision provides assurance to Peninsula residents who feared a 4-track system long after the “blended system” was agreed to and incorporated into High Speed Rail’s planning. However, this provision is unlikely to come into play for decades (if ever). If things went smoothly (and there are already delays) High Speed Rail would arrive on the Peninsula in the late 2020s. The Blended System will allow 3-4 High Speed Trains trains per direction per hour – by comparison, New York to DC and Paris to London provide three high speed trains per hour. This provision would come into play decades from now, if SF-LA needs more rail service than NY-DC. That will be a different world, with a different generation of decision-makers and voters.