It's kind of startling. Out there in the San Joaquin Valley, work is proceeding on California's first high-speed rail route. And by work, I mean actual concrete and steel. Workers are creating tangible infrastructure -- for instance, a series of bridges designed to carry a future bullet train across the San Joaquin and Fresno rivers and other waterways.
The slow and steady progress of construction in the valley is startling mostly because the actual presence of a train I could climb on and ride, even for a trip between beautiful Madera and even-more-beautiful Bakersfield, seems so far in the future. The state's high-speed rail agency says in its 2016 business plan that service could begin, somewhere, by the middle of the next decade.
In the meantime, the project remains fraught with political and practical hurdles. By this point, many Americans have gotten to ride on very, very fast trains in Japan, France, Germany and elsewhere, and are wondering why something similar can't happen here.