High Speed Rail Authority says San Jose will get 1st leg of line

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On Thursday, state officials announced plans for high-speed rail service are on track to happen within a decade and the first leg of that line will connect passengers in San Jose.

The state initially wanted the first leg to run from Merced to Burbank, but that's no longer the case. Instead, the new plan is to take passengers from San Jose’s Diridon Station to the Bakersfield area by 2025.

Commuters at Diridon Station said they're eager to ride California’s first-ever bullet train that could ultimately take passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours.

"It's nice that the U.S. is finally catching up to the rest of the world," said Mike Rogero of San Francisco. "I've spent most of my time in Asia where they have had bullet trains for 20 years now.

In an updated business plan, released Thursday by the California High Speed Rail Authority, the state plans to build the first track between Silicon Valley and Central Valley. The reasoning is because it's less expensive than building tunnels through the Tehachapi Mountains, reducing costs by $4 billion.

"It's a game changer as it relates to a confluence of commuter choice options, housing and land use decisions, the economy and jobs and our quality of life overall," said Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

Silicon Valley leaders are touting how it could grow the region, allowing workers to live further south and avoid highway gridlock. The draft plan includes requesting nearly $3 billion in additional funding from the federal government.

Rod Diridon Sr., who the Diridon station is named after, said the trains will pay for themselves.

"Economically it's a huge impact for Silicon Valley companies," said Diridon. "Right now it's very hard for our high-tech companies who need the best talent in the world to attract the best talent here because the vacancy rate for housing is so low."

Diridon said ridership is estimated to be between 40 to 100 million riders a year and he thinks it will be higher than that given how fast the state is growing.

"Tens of millions of people will have to commute to Silicon Valley or Los Angeles for jobs," said Diridon. "The way they would do that is with high speed rail."

This move will also make it easier to electrify Caltrain from San Jose to San Francisco because the bullet trains and Caltrains will run on the same tracks.