The bullet train may pull into San Jose before it heads south to Los Angeles, heating up the NorCal-SoCal rivalry better than any sports matchup.
Sources at City Hall confirmed to NBC Bay Area on Wednesday night that the first leg of the high speed rail will be built between San Jose and Bakersfield by 2025. This bumps an earlier Central Valley-to-Los Angeles down the track.
The formal reveal is expected on Friday as the California High Speed Rail Authority’s releases its business plan, which by law, must be updated every two years.
"This a game changer for San Jose, Silicon Valley and the Bay Area," said Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. "Why? We are talking about rapid rail at 220 miles an hour. That's a trip from downtown Gilroy to downtown San Jose in a matter of minutes. You can get from the Almaden Valley to downtown San Jose in less than 45 minutes."
The change was made to cut costs, re-routing the high-speed rail train to take the path of least resistance by avoiding tunneling through the Tehachapi Mountains in the Southland, according to Guardino.
According to the San Jose Mercury News – which cites a draft of Friday’s business plan – the change was made to cut costs and increase the possibility of private investment.
The San Jose to Bakersfield portion could be up and running in less than a decade, transforming San Jose’s Diridon Station into a high speed rail hub, a so-called Grand Central Station.
But first, the station would have to be upgraded and expanded, according to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.
“This is far from a done deal. There are a lot of other political, financial and logistical issues that need to be worked through,” Liccardo said.
Caltrain commuters between Silicon Valley and San Francisco would benefit from earlier bullet train service as the two mass transit agencies will share an electrified line. Caltrain has been working to secure funding for that.
“Getting those dollars at least for the Caltrain system really depends on getting a connection with Caltrain. So being able to move north means that funding can move right away into the Caltrain corridor,” Liccardo said.
The Caltrain board suggests it can nearly double its capacity of about 60,000 riders to 120,000 riders each day.
If all goes as planned, the bullet train could get travelers from San Francisco to LA in 2.5 hours.
Guardino says this could help with the lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area.
“If I’m a school teacher in San Jose, I can now live in Gilroy quite conveniently and jump on high-speed rail or going further on electrified Caltrain. Or I could even live in Fresno or Merced and be here in a third of the time it would take me in car congested gridlock,” Guardino said.
Some travelers, though, say they’re still not sold on the bullet train.
“I think it’s going to run massively over budget,” Santa Maria’s Matt Prue said at Diridon Station. “So between that and how much it’s going to cost to ride it, I’m not sure depending on where the costs come in, it might be cheaper to fly.”