Sustainability Practices

High-Speed Rail: Investing in a transformative transportation project for California’s communities, environment and economy​

Photo of Salesforce Transit CenterSustainability is, and always will be, at the core of our mission to deliver high-speed rail to California. The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) remains dedicated to the goal of creating the greenest infrastructure project in the nation, both in its operations and its construction.

Our Sustainability Policy articulates our sustainability objectives and identifies specific sustainability commitments:

“The California High-Speed Rail Authority will deliver a sustainable high-speed rail system for California that serves as a model for sustainable rail infrastructure. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has developed, and will continue to implement, sustainability practices that inform and affect the planning, siting, designing, construction, mitigation, operation, and maintenance of the high-speed rail system.”

Building the nation’s first truly high-speed rail system is essential for California to maintain its position as a global leader when it comes to economic standing, job creation and efforts to combat the effects of climate change. This future-ready system, with high-speed trains that will be powered by 100-percent renewable energy, will ensure that Californians can move efficiently and effectively even as the state’s population grows toward 50 million people.

Envision Award​

Envision Platinum AwardThe Authority received national recognition in December 2020 for its sustainability efforts.

The Envision Platinum rating was awarded by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, a nonprofit organization founded by the American Public Works Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Council of Engineering Companies. Envision Platinum is the highest award level possible, according to the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.

The California High-Speed Rail Program is the largest transportation infrastructure project both in terms of capital investment and geographic area to earn an Envision award for sustainable infrastructure to date. The Authority’s comprehensive focus on sustainability and, in particular, its consistent drive to address climate and risk were a foundation for its success in this rigorous, third-party evaluation.

Sustainability Achievements

The High-Speed Rail Program’s key sustainability achievements include:

  • Demonstrated leadership and comprehensive commitment to sustainability and social equity and justice through strategies to ensure pay equity, fair and equitable work environments, and attracting and retaining diverse workforces;
  • Recycling 95% (196,906 tons) of all construction waste to date and sending only 5% (9,651 tons) to landfills;
  • A unique commitment to net-zero tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions during construction and demonstrated activities, such as carbon sequestration projects and engine replacements, that have already begun achieving this balance;
  • Implementation of solar and battery storage resources to delivery renewable energy for operation;
  • Station area plans for cities receiving new high-speed rail stations; and
  • Widespread preservation efforts to mitigate impacts on natural habitats caused by the high-speed rail project.

photo of green field with tree lines in background below blue sky

The Kings River Mitigation Site provides an opportunity to preserve one of the last remaining parcels containing native wetlands and riparian habit in the Kings River floodplain.

Get the Facts on Sustainability

Myth: Building high-speed rail causes more pollution than it will save.


Contract requirements dictate our construction sites have significantly better air quality than the California average. Our contractors use Tier 4 on- and off-road vehicles and technology to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Site emissions are 60 percent lower than the state average.

Myth: High-speed rail causes sprawl.


More than $10 million in funding has been awarded for station area planning efforts, which will help create thriving and sustainable station area districts.

Planning among key cities creates meaningful connections and economic opportunites.

Myth: Investing Cap-and-Trade proceeds in high-speed rail has produced no results.


Cap-and-Trade funding has helped spur nearly $4 billion of economic activity in disadvantaged communities and more than 400 disadvantaged workers dispatched to our Construction Projects.

Of the more than 600 small businesses participating in the high-speed rail program, 192 are Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. There are already more than 5,500 jobs have been created to work on building high-speed rail.

Myth: High-speed rail will be a drain on the power grid.


High-Speed Rail will run on electricity supplied entirely from renewable sources.

The Authority is committed to using 100 percent renewable energy to operate our trains and facilities.

Myth: High-speed rail does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions now.


At this very moment rail crossings throughout northern and southern California are being upgraded or eliminated. This reduces traffic congestion, improves safety and cuts GHG emissions from idling vehicles.

A single rail crossing can cause up to 45 days of stopped traffic per year, which results in about 1,800 tons of GHG emissions annually.

Myth: California could make better transportation investments.


Transportation accounts for the majority of emissions in California, and high-speed rail will help the state achieve its long-term climate goals by reducing transportation emissions. High-speed rail is a critical part of California’s sustainable transportation network. The goals of high-speed rail are reducing congestion and pollution while improving mobility and increasing access to jobs and affordable housing.

As California’s population rises and our economy continues to grow, high-speed rail is the only mode that meets every one of these goals.

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