2018 California State Rail Plan

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Connecting California

Caltrans is releasing the new 2018 California State Rail Plan (and Appendix) which will provide an exciting new framework for planning and implementing California’s rail network for the next 20 years and beyond. The Rail Plan is a strategic plan with operating and capital investment strategies that will lead to a coordinated, statewide travel system.

The creation of a railroad network in California in the 19th century connected us to the rest of the nation with what was then the highest-speed form of transportation. Continued rail investments in the 20th century helped California’s rapid economic development. For the 21st century, California is again poised to put “high speed” back in rail. By 2040, Californians will have access to an integrated, state-of-the-art rail system that will revolutionize personal mobility and enhance quality of life.

  • Rail can provide significant solutions to today's transportation challenges...
    • California is the 5th largest economy in the world, with and annual gross domestic product of over $2.4 trillion. Rail is an efficient, safe, and cost-effective way to move goods. Because energy consumption and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions per ton carried are far lower than diesel trucks, increased efficiencies of the freight rail system can reduce environmental impacts, travel times and costs.
    • California's population is expected to grow to 50 million by 2040 causing continued pressure on the State's aging transportation infrastructure. The integrated rail system envisioned by the 2040 Rail Plan Vision will provide significant new, reliable capacity to the State's transportation system.
    • California has adopted aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets and is showing the world that GHG reduction and economic growth are fully compatible. A more extensive and efficient rail network—including electrified rail — can reduce the transportation sectors' substantial GHG emissions, add resiliency to the transportation system, and help mitigate climate change's adverse impacts.
  • Caltrans can respond to these challenges and continue to lead in this century...

    Caltrans can respond to these challenges and continue to lead in this century by “returning to the future” –with a rail system that will provide safe, convenient, frequent, and reliable travel options across the state. Caltrans is planning for an integrated passenger rail network for intercity, commuter and high speed rail that is based on successful domestic and international rail models with transfer stations that allow for efficient connections in coordination with local transit systems allowing door to door alternatives to driving. The system builds upon and supports strong existing regional systems that are under local control.

    The concept expands the reach of the passenger rail system to maximize ridership and market-capture potential and supports growth in the efficient movement of freight by rail, which in turn benefits California by reducing roadway congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

    The 2018 Rail Plan will present a vision and strategies for California's future passenger and freight rail network that will guide state investments supporting implementation of an integrated rail network.

    The Rail Plan is not being developed in a vacuum - it is one of several companion planning documents to the 2040 California Transportation Plan which seeks to build on regional initiatives for curbing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change by coordinating statewide planning for all transportation modes, including air, roads and highways, local and regional public transit, and passenger and freight rail.

A Vision for Moving People

Passenger rail will open the door to California for travelers to:

  • Travel quickly across the state with more trains, more often;
  • Enjoy the journey on modern, safe, clean and comfortable trains;
  • Glide past traffic congestion on reliable trains and express buses in dedicated lanes;
  • Transfer quickly and easily with timed transfers at hub stations with minimal wait times;
  • Plan an entire seamless, door-to-door trip, even on different trains, using a single ticket.

A Vision for Moving Goods

Freight rail investments enhance the movement of goods by:

  • Eliminating bottlenecks and using existing corridors more productively;
  • Improving trade corridors, yards and terminals, and access for businesses;
  • Enhancing the competitiveness of California’s ports and intermodal


The mission of the 2018 Rail Plan is to provide a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient California rail network that successfully moves people and goods while enhancing the State’s economy and livability.

Contact Information

Mailing Address:

California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
Division of Rail and Mass Transportation
2018 California State Rail Plan
Rail Planning Branch

1120 N Street, MS 74
Sacramento, CA 95814