New Plan Means No Bullet Trains in Anaheim Until 2030

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s latest business plan calls for Orange County’s section of improved rail lines to arrive probably in 2030, about two years after reaching Los Angeles, Orange County Transportation Authority officials said Monday.

Jennifer Bergener, OCTA’s director of rail programs, provided the estimate to the agency’s board of directors Monday after the disclosure last week that Anaheim is no longer part of plans for the first phase of the project, which aims to have bullet trains running between Los Angeles and San Francisco by the late 2020s.

OCTA Executive Director Will Kempton, who also chairs the High-Speed Rail Authority Peer Review Group, said incorporating the Los Angeles-to-Anaheim leg late in the first phase construction “makes perfect sense to me. It’s really a rational way to proceed.”

The planned system won’t run true high-speed trains for much of its length. In urban areas at the southern and northern ends and in other areas, trains will travel at faster commuter speeds. About 130 miles in the Central Valley will have true high-speed service of about 200 miles an hour.

Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray told the board that “the good news is that [the rail authority] is choosing to build south first.”

The 2008 ballot measure that authorized the high-speed rail system specified it had to stretch from Anaheim to San Francisco.

A Los Angeles Times article Saturday stated “it is unclear under the new proposal if or when bullet train service would be extended to Anaheim.”

But Kate Klimow, vice president of government and community affairs for the Orange County Business Council, which supports the project, told the OCTA board “we have been assured” the project is coming to Anaheim “despite news stories.”

While Anaheim officials are strong supporters of the $68-billion train system because they say it benefits the city’s tourism industry, others in Orange County have joined a chorus of criticism of the project, which has spent the first few years of its life plagued by mismanagement and poor oversight of public funds.

County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, whose district includes Anaheim, is also a member of the OCTA board. He said the state doesn’t have even half of the roughly $31-billion needed to build the first 130 miles of the rail system.

“This [project] is totally detached from reality,” he said. “There’s nobody who can tell you where the money will come from.”