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This LCA used data from a previous LCA done by Chester and Horvath (2012) on the proposed California High Speed Rail, and furthered the LCA to look into potential changes that can be made to the proposed CAHSR to be more resilient to climate change. This LCA focused on the energy, cost, and GHG emissions associated with raising the track, adding fly ash to the concrete mixture in place of a percentage of cement, and running the HSR on solar electricity rather than the current electricity mix. Data was collected from a variety of sources including other LCAs, research studies, feasibility studies, and project information from companies, agencies, and researchers in order to determine what the cost, energy requirements, and associated GHG emissions would be for each of these changes. This data was then used to calculate results of cost, energy, and GHG emissions for the three different changes. The results show that the greatest source of cost is the raised track (Design/Construction Phase), and the greatest source of GHG emissions is the concrete (also Design/Construction Phase).
Sustainable mobility policy for long-distance transportation services should consider emerging automobiles and aircraft as well as infrastructure and supply chain life-cycle effects in the assessment of new high-speed rail systems. Using the California corridor, future automobiles, high-speed rail and aircraft long-distance travel are evaluated, considering emerging fuel-efficient vehicles, new train designs and the possibility that the region will meet renewable electricity goals. An attributional per passenger-kilometer-traveled life-cycle inventory is first developed including vehicle, infrastructure and energy production components. A consequential life-cycle impact assessment is then established to evaluate existing infrastructure expansion against the construction of a new high-speed rail system. The results show that when using the life-cycle assessment framework, greenhouse gas footprints increase significantly and human health and environmental damage potentials may be dominated by indirect and supply chain components. The environmental payback is most sensitive to the number of automobile trips shifted to high-speed rail, and for greenhouse gases is likely to occur in 20–30 years. A high-speed rail system that is deployed with state-of-the-art trains, electricity that has met renewable goals, and in a configuration that endorses high ridership will provide significant environmental benefits over existing modes. Opportunities exist for reducing the long-distance transportation footprint by incentivizing large automobile trip shifts, meeting clean electricity goals and reducing material production effects.