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California High Speed Rail

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff is the rail delivery partner for the first high-speed rail system planned for implementation in the US and has developed new railway standards for HSR in the country.

Quick facts about the California HSRThe California High-Speed Rail system will be the first such system implemented in the US. The system will connect California’s mega-regions, contribute to economic development and a cleaner environment, create jobs and preserve agricultural and protected lands.

Using federal and state funds, including Cap and Trade auction proceeds, the California High Speed Rail Authority (the Authority) plans to begin high-speed operations by 2022, and connect San Francisco to Los Angeles in under three hours at speeds of 350km/h (220mph) by 2029. Eventually, the system will extend to Sacramento and San Diego, totalling 800 miles with up to 24 stations. The Authority is also working with regional partners to implement a state-wide rail modernization plan to improve local and regional rail lines.

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has been helping shape high-speed rail in California from the earliest feasibility studies in the 1990s to the latest business plans in 2014. The firm is now serving as the Authority’s Rail Delivery Partner (RDP), a seven-year engagement from the planning and preliminary design phase to project delivery and operations.

The RDP role builds on the firm’s previous work as the Authority’s Program Management Team. In this earlier role, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff coordinated the activities of more than 35 sub consultants, prepared the statewide program-level Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and produced the full suite of technical memoranda comprising 130 program-wide technical guidance documents, technical requirements, a 1,400 page design criteria manual, and standards and directives that will define the high-speed train system in California and will assist the Federal Railroad Administration in defining standards and regulations for the US market.

California HSR - Anaheim
photo courtesy of California High Speed Rail Authority


WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff is serving as the Rail Delivery Partner for CHSRA, responsible for moving the California high-speed rail program from the design phase to operation. 

The program delivery strategy proposes advancing the planning, design and construction of multiple segments of the high-speed rail system using several funding sources. This allows to move multiple segments forward concurrently and connect the HSR system with other existing and planned rail and transportation networks across the state. Coordination across these segments and technical systems integration will become increasingly complex and important.


The California High-Speed Rail System is the first truly high-speed rail system to be planned, designed, built, and soon operated, in the nation. In taking on this challenge, the Authority has and will continue to break new ground and set a precedent for other high-speed rail systems in the US. This presents atypical challenges compared to other complex infrastructure projects that have been delivered under more developed state and federal regulatory guidelines and mature technical standards.

  • Funding and Financing
  • Environmental Clearances
  • Right-of-Way Acquisition
  • Long, Deep Tunnels through Seismic Areas

California HSR - Transbay Terminal A, Bay Area
photo courtesy of California High Speed Rail Authority


Implementation of high-speed rail in California will connect the State with a modern, integrated state-wide rail system and:

  • Establish vital new economic links between California’s mega regions
  • Create employment and educational opportunities for Californians
  • Improve air quality and support the state’s climate change initiatives
  • Preserve agricultural land, protect the environmental and promote sustainable communities
  • Create an opportunity to use the dedicated high-speed rail corridor to achieve broader public benefits


As the Rail Delivery Partner, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff is accountable for day-to-day program management and program delivery activities, including:

  • Establishing a program-wide Program Management Information System (PMIS) to interface with existing Authority systems and facilitate reporting
  • Managing coordination of design, construction and commissioning on multiple segments that will be delivered through a range of delivery models and on overlapping timeframes
  • Advising on key delivery strategies; supporting or conducting risk assessment and cost-benefit analyses in support of the Authority’s determination of the delivery strategies
  • Delivering work to meet quality, legal and regulatory requirements of the overall program
  • Establishing technical requirements and standards for the entire HSR program
  • Being accountable for program delivery and project execution results through performance measurements, using a fee-at-risk approach

Our team’s scope of services covers :

  • Program Management
  • Operations and Maintenance
  • Commercial
  • Policy, Planning and Environment
  • Design and Construction
  • Program Integration and Coordination