California’s much-anticipated high-speed rail project is finally set to hit the tracks — starting with a 54 mile-long stretch of railway set to be laid down in the Central Valley. The track, which was just approved by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, will stretch from Borden to Fresno to Corcoran. But why the Central Valley — and not one of the state’s many population centers?

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The route won’t actually become operable until more tracks are laid down, but engineers say that the Central Valley is ideal as a starting point because it fulfills a federal requirement that the track be usable even if the rest of the planned 800 mile railway isn’t built. The area is also flat, so bullet trains can speed up to 220 mph.

The first stretch of track is expected to be finished by 2017. If all goes well, the track will eventually extend to San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego. That is, of course, assuming that the California High-Speed Rail Authority can get funding.