Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Important Is UPRR To California HSR?

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On Tuesday, an article in the Hollister Freelance discussed the HSR project from the perspective of Gilroy and the cities that will be in the catchment area of the planned stop there. The piece is timely, since the High Speed Rail Authority will host a project-level EIR/EIS scoping meeting in Gilroy this week (cp. heads-up at the end of this post):
  • Thursday, March 26
  • 3-7pm
  • Hilton Garden Inn, Ballroom A, 6070 Monterey Road, Gilroy
Three potential concerns are listed: the notion that HSR would bisect the community (cp. our post Grade Separations Done Right), the potential noise impacts (cp. our posts Thunder Alley and La Vitrine) and, the position of Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR):
  1. Spokeswoman Zoe Richmond said her employer gets "very skittish" about freight trains running in close proximity to high speed rail, whose equipment is very light, [very] fast and carries [lots of] passengers. A UP train derailed and spilled coal onto an [adjacent] light rail line in [Littleton, Colorado on 11 December of 2007, causing the light rail train to derail as well. None of the 30 passengers on board was injured but] Mz Richmond characterized the incident Richardson as "too close for comfort", adding that safety is her company's primary concern.

  2. She also raised concerns about continued access to the existing customer base and winning new business, because freight trains cannot easily and safely cross high speed rail lines at grade. It would be counterproductive if bullet trains ended up forcing freight onto the state's and the nation's roads.

  3. In the same vein, Joseph Thompson, a transportation lawyer in south Santa Clara county claimed that CHSRA had not yet clarified how it would cross UPRR's tracks between Santa Clara (where they run west of UPRR's Alviso line) and Pacheco Pass, well east of Gilroy. He asserted that "Union Pacific's eminent domain trumps High Speed Rail's" because it had been delegated by Congress and President Lincoln.
As a first step, let's look on the map where CHSRA's preferred route would have bullet trains running on or next to UPRR's right of ways.

View Larger Map

The sections of concern are south SF-Gilroy, south Fresno-Merced, the northern approach to Tehachapi Pass, Mojave-Palmdale in the Antelope Valley and part of the Inland Empire route for the phase II spur to San Diego. The Merced-Sacramento section and the "HST/commuter overlay" that is "under consideration" would also raise concerns. All told, roughly 50% of the entire preferred HSR route requires appropriate agreements with UPRR.

Note that while the PCJPB owns the Caltrain ROW, the terms of the 1991 contract with SP - which UPRR acquired in the context of a merger a few years later - give UPRR limited but perpetual trackage rights and 30-minute windows during which it may run its trains "at commuter speeds". For more details, please see Clem Tillier's posts Freight on the Peninsual, Port Pork and Memorandum of Understanding. Legally, CHSRA only needs to deal with the PCJPB, but the latter needs to ensure UPRR's rights are upheld in the process. That could put Caltrain in the middle of a dispute between CHSRA and UPRR, so it should insist on three-way negotiations for issues related to operational safety.

Now, let's examine the concerns raised above in reverse order:

Re 3: In the 19th century, Congress declared that privately owned for-profit railroads were performing a public service by moving goods and passengers around the country. To that end, Congress delegated to them strictly limited powers of eminent domain for the purpose of expanding the public service. In practice, that referred to widening rights of ways, acquiring land for new turnoffs, sidings, yards etc. The idea was to protect railroads against speculators and other landowners who could otherwise exact extremely high prices because railroad alignments must meet certain minimum radii, maximum gradients etc.

The delegation of eminent domain was not intended to allow railroads to prevent competition or other public services from being delivered. Since Nov 4 2008, California HSR is arguably a public service in development. It is therefore not immediately clear that UPRR's powers of eminent domain would trump those of the state of California, let alone those of Congress. However, it is extremely unlikely that anyone will seek eminent domain against UPRR anyhow, even for air or ground rights needed to cross. The objective should be to negotiate in good faith.

Re 2: For now, CHSRA, Caltrain and others are drafting plans that ensure existing freight operations can continue unhindered. In practice, that may mean the monopoly dispatcher for a given corridor may need to instruct one or more bullet trains to slow down or stop to give a freight train the opportunity to cross over to the non-HSR tracks via a diamond. Alternatively, the split of HSR and regular tracks could be defined such that most freight movements are anyhow unaffected. For the remainder, one option would be grade separation between the HSR tracks and freight spurs off the main line. Another, possibly cheaper alternative would be to pay UPRR and its customer to stop using a given spur.

Re 1: UPRR has been in business for 146 years, during which time they've forgotten more about freight railroad operations than CHSRA can ever hope to learn. In particular, they are fully aware of the risk of derailments, which is very small but non-zero. Since US-style heavy freight trains can be up to a mile long, the engineer in charge of a train may not even notice the derailment of a single truck on a single car at first. Indeed, major derailments involving cars tipping or toppling over and fouling adjacent track are quite rare. Usually, a train can be brought to a full stop long before that happens.

UPRR's concern relates to the early detection of a derailment event and, to sending early warning to the operator of the service on the adjacent track - preferably via computer-to-computer messaging to avoid delays related to human-to-human interactions. Time is of the essence because a bullet train traveling at 300km/h can take 40 seconds to come to an emergency stop (less if traveling at e.g. 200km/h). During this time, it can cover well over a mile. With CHSRA planning up to 12 trains per hour each way (esp. on the network's trunk line in the Central Valley), the probability that a bullet train traveling at high speed would be within 60 seconds of the site of a freight rail derailment could be as high as 40% during peak travel periods. That's if the freight train has already derails, a very low probability event.

The upshot is that even if the bullet train's automatic/European/positive train control system were notified of a derailment on an adjacent track and applied the emergency brakes immediately, there would still be a high residual risk of a follow-on collision if the derailed freight train were to foul the bullet train tracks. If that were to happen at significant relative speed, the result could be catastrophic loss of life.

It is a fairly pathological scenario but one that is at least theoretically possible. In general, engineers define a hazard as the product of the probability of occurrence and the damage done. Indeed, Burlington North Santa Fe (BNSF) has not raised a red flag on this issue (at least not in public), perhaps because it perceives the hazard as much lower than UPRR does.

In any event, UPRR published a press release on June 4, 2008, giving notice that it had had no discussions with CHSRA on operational safety in two years and no interest in selling any of its ROW. Mehdi Morshed, the authority's senior engineer, responded with a terse press release of his own, stating that HSR would not share track with UPRR freight trains and citing the excellent safety record of HSR elsewhere in the world (cp. Union Pacific's HSR Games). Note that the circumstances of the 1998 Eschede disaster in Germany had nothing to do with freight trains and everything to do with the hubris of Deutsche Bahn's engineers - it is simply not germaine to the issues raised by UPRR.

That does not mean there is no hubris on CHSRA's part here. US freight railroads are private companies that must pay property taxes on their rights of way, while their competition - the trucking industry - gets a heavily subsidized ride on the nation's highways. Considering US freight rail operators are for-profit corporations, it is not surprising that they should try to make do without expensive active safety systems and keep maintenance overheads on their infrastructure and rolling stock as low as possible without compromising safety in the existing operational context. UPRR does not want to increase its cost of operations just to accommodate high speed rail.

In other words, if CHSRA wants to have any chance of sticking close to its preferred route, it will need to sit down with UPRR and discuss safety concerns regarding derailments in the California context. Unless and until UPRR's engineers are satisfied that these concerns are being taken seriously and adequate measures to keep the hazard acceptable are feasible, the business managers will not be willing to offer any part of the ROW. Moreover, they may raise a red flag with FRA even if no land is transacted. Considering a mile-long heavy freight train traveling at 70mph represents a vast amount of kinetic energy, the civil engineering approach ("add more concrete") may not be sufficient to prevent track fouling in the event of a freight train derailment.

Similar concerns apply to a freight train derailing and hitting a support column for HSR on an aerial structure or, fouling an open trench containing HSR tracks.

FRA has already done some work regarding the aerodynamic interactions between Amtrak Acela Express and freight trains on adjacent tracks. The largest impact was on empty, tall freight cars passed at a relative speed of 110mph. At higher speeds, the response was less pronounced in spite of the greater load pulses at the bow and stern of the passing train because those pulses also lasted less long. The aerodynamic shape of the Acela meant its interactions were less severe at 150mph than those produced by conventional Amfleet trains at 125mph. In any event, the interactions were not considered severe enough to cause a freight train to derail.

The inverse problem, i.e. the serious derailment of an HSR train - mercifully an extremely unlikely event, even in an earthquake (cp. Shake, Rattle and Roll) - could set the scene a follow-on accident with an approaching freight train. However, since there will be far fewer freight trains and they travel at lower speeds, this hazard is a secondary concern. Besides, life is risk, there is no such thing as 100% perfect safety in the transportation sector. The cost of safety measures has to be commensurate with the hazard reductions they achieve.

If CHSRA has not yet done so, it might want to consider hiring a recently retired senior US railroad operations manager with an engineering background, specifically to reach a technical understanding and mutual comfort level with UPRR. Worst case, CHSRA may find UPRR unreceptive even after good faith efforts to address safety concerns. If CHSRA can secure a brand-new ROW that is sufficiently removed from UPRR's, e.g. in the San Jose-Gilroy section, it might well still be possible to proceed without having to redo that portion of the program EIR/EIS.

Plan B?

Otherwise, the only remaining option would be to select a route that minimized or eliminated statewide interactions between UPRR and the high speed rail system, even if BNSF remains willing to share its own ROW in the Central Valley. The most significant impacts would be on the way out of the Bay Area, on the detour via Palmdale, on the spur up to Sacramento and, on the spur through the Inland Empire - four major aspects of the planned network.

Nevertheless, a solution would be possible, at least for the starter line, see the following map. Please note that the alignment implementation details (at grade vs. below grade) are only valid for the section west of Tracy.

View Larger Map

For argument's sake, I've assumed an HSR-capable link across the San Franciso Bay at Dumbarton will prove infeasible because of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. However, I have assumed an arrangement acceptable to all parties will be found for the entire Caltrain ROW but not for the section down to Gilroy where more freight trains operate. Under that specific set of assumptions, the south bay HSR station would probably have to be moved from SJ Diridon to SantaClara/SJC to secure run-through tracks to the I-880 median. The HSR tracks would cross underneath UPRR's Alviso line and skirt the vast Newhall yard VTA has reserved for BART to the east. It would make sense to reserve part of that yard for additional HSR platforms and/or a yard, especially since it would lie one level below the BART facilities.

The next problem would be crossing over to Pleasanton/Livermore. The BART extension to Fremont Warm Springs and beyond means that CHSRA's Altamont variations based on a route through Niles are no longer feasible. Instead, the most likely option would be to tunnel underneath CA-262 and all the way across to Haynes Gulch (Calaveras Road). Six miles long, it would only just be legal to construct this without a third service/escape bore. At least the Calaveras, perhaps even the Hayward fault would need to be crossed underground. Fortunately, approaching Sunol from the south means the new route could bypass both Pleasanton and Livermore by tunneling across to El Charro Rd, one of the alignments being considered for the BART extension to Livermore. The HSR alignment might need to remain underground to cross under both the UPRR Altamont Pass line and Livermore municipal airport. The lakes near El Charro Rd might have to be drained, at least during construction. I'm not sure what they are used for.

HSR would continue east in the I-580 median, deviating only once to keep the alignment sufficiently straight for high speed service. In the interest of keeping express line haul time down, the Tracy station would end up in the I-205 median, well north of downtown. Beyond it, the CA-120 median and sections across farmland would connect the new route to the BNSF alignment just south of Escalon. Modesto would be served at E. Briggsmore, Merced county at Castle Airport with a possible detour around the Merced town.

The BNSF ROW through Fresno is not straight enough for high speeds, even if adequate noise mitigation measures could be found. It might make more sense to construct a western bypass for HSR/BNSF/Amtrak (3-4 tracks) through farmland and, to run a new DMU-based light rail service on the old BNSF ROW through town. This would deliver passengers from downtown to basic "beet field" HSR stations near Gregg and Bowles that would each be served by 50% of the trains originally slated to stop in downtown Fresno.

Unfortunately, even with all these measures, switching to Altamont implies a line haul penalty of 8-10 minutes for SF-LA express trains, relative to Pacheco Pass. To compensate, the detour via Palmdale would have to be sacrificed (cp. Future's So Bright...) in favor of the technically more challenging but already studied alignment across the Grapevine, past Lake Castaic Wildlife Preserve. For LA county, this sacrifice would presumably not be acceptable unless at least Ontario airport were well served by HSR as early as possible - not an easy proposition if UPRR refuses to co-operate (cp. Quo Vadis: LA- San Diego).

Conclusion: CHSRA had better get into UPRR's good graces, or the entire project could potentially face massive changes to the route, with the fate of some portions (e.g. Stockton - Sacramento) unresolved. The relevant sections of the program EIR/EIS would then have to be re-done, setting the project back by several years. In particular, simply buying land from someone other than UPRR but very close to its ROW may not be sufficient: UPRR could still raise a red flag with FRA if it feels its concerns regarding integrated operational safety and by extension, liability for accidents and loss of revenue, are not adequately addressed.


A Lynch said...

Question related to this post. Since freight companies share the track with Amtrak, wouldn't it be in their interest to support a separate passenger only system? This would eventually take passenger trains off their tracks and free up the schedule for maximum freight movement. Yes, no?

David S said...

If the worst happens with respect to negotiations, wouldn't UPRR basically find themselves opposite a very pro-HSR federal government? Isn't it at least plausible that USDOT would step in and ensure a reasonable solution is reached?

Rafael said...

@ A Lynch -

both UPRR and BNSF host passenger rail services on their tracks in California: Amtrak long distance (Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief), Amtrak California's routes (Pacific Surfliner, Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin), Metrolink and the Altamont Commuter Express.

BART and Caltrain own their ROW, though UPRR has limited trackage rights in perpetuity in the SF peninsula. NCTD in San Diego county also owns its rights of way. Metrolink (SCRRA) has purchased some rights of way, as has LA Metro. The new SMART service in Marin and Sonoma counties will run on county-owned ROW as well.

In other words, California is currently a patchwork of state, regional, county-level and city-level passenger rail services. HSR would come on top of that, not replace it. Indeed, some $950 million of the $9.95 billion bond measure (prop 1A) that voters passed in November is reserved for capital improvements to "HSR feeder" services, with priority given to heavy rail.

The only (looming) capacity bottleneck in the rail freight system in California is between the LA/LB harbors and the east end of the San Gabriel Valley (San Bernardino/Colton).

In anticipation of ever-larger container ships, the state and (IIRC) LA basin counties created first the Alameda corridor and now, the Alameda Corridor East, a set fo grade crossing separations and improvements in the San Gabriel Valley.

One reason Orange County (Anaheim) was included in phase I of the HSR project is to grade separate a section of BNSF's Transcon line, which runs parallel to CA-91.

To be fair, the section between Oakland harbor and the Benicia rail bridge also gets quite a bit of freight traffic, but there was still room for increasing the number of Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains to 12 per day (each way) only recently.

For now, both UPRR and BNSF appear fine with hosting passenger rail by selling trackage rights on their existing rails. Selling part of their ROW to enable construction of an entirely new very high speed rail system dedicated to passenger and perhaps, high speed cargo service - that's a different matter.

BNSF is receptive in the Central Valley because its ROW there is arguably underutilized, with little scope for expansion. The Transcon ROW is wide enough for four tracks between Redondo Junction and Fullerton, but BNSF has yet to sign half of it away to CHSRA. Once you sell ROW, you never get it back.

Rafael said...

@ David S -

UPRR's been around the block since the Gold Rush. It's seen a good many administrations come and go. If push came to shove, the Obama administration would think twice about trying to strong-arm one of only a handful of companies transporting goods between the coast and the vast interior of the country.

USDOT, in the guise of Ray LaHood or the FRA, may well be interested in a creative, amicable solution. My point is that the non-relationship CHSRA currently has with UPRR does not appear conducive to reaching that happy outcome.

Morris Brown said...

Rafael has mentioned the alternate routing from SJ to the Central Valley on numerous occasions. It is interesting to note, which I did before, that the Authority has signed a contract with AECOM for a large amount of money to study the Altamont corridor.

As I said before, I didn't understand this being done, since right now certainly Altamont is supposedly off the table. If this study was to be for ACE, the study should have been funded by ACE with funds to be obtained from the bonds measure. No it is being funded directly by CHSRA.

However, the Authoriy has a major problem with UPRR and the EIR they certified using a corridor that they can't use (SJ to Gilroy). That is one of the major issues in the lawsuit that PCL, Menlo Park, Atherton and others have filed against the EIR.

Rafael has repeatedly rejected any crossing to Altamont via the Dumbarton bridge corridor, citing the federal wildlife refuge and environmental concerns of the Bay. However, these concerns did not seem to bother proponents of the now seemingly discarded Dumbarton Rail proposal.

One would think that a Dumbarton bridge crossing would certainly be feasible; San Jose wouldn't like it and certainly CalTrain would outright hate it, since they would not necessarily get their electrification and grade separations done all the way from SF to SJ.

All of this is interesting to say the least.

While I'm at it, some readers might like to take 5 minutes and look at a video from a resident of Palo Alto, Jim McFall, who gave a presentation to the PA Council and Planning Commission showing impacts of an above grade project on a piece of Palo Alto.

YouTube Video Link

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

as I had mentioned to you before, AECOM got the contract to study the "HST/commuter overlay" though Altamont Pass because AB3034 put it on a level playing field with the other 7 identified component corridors. The goal of connecting SF to LA and Anaheim was identified as paramount, but the bill never spelled out how it was to be achieved. Instead, it said it wouldn't prejudice CHSRA's preference but the authority would have to petition for prop 1A bond appropriations every year.

In other words, CHSRA is studying Altamont more or less against its will. Who knows, it may yet prove a very useful lifeline forthe project. Preferred does not mean all other options have been discarded, just that they are not being pursued with the same priority.

Afaik, Pacheco Pass remains plan A and just because UPRR has reiterated some if its concerns does not mean CHSRA cannot or will not make an attempt to address them. The authority actually has little choice in the matter, given that UPRR has Caltrain over a barrel on these safety issues in any contract the PCJPB may want to sign with CHSRA.

As for Dumbarton: there is a huge difference between running six slow Caltrain consists across a restored single-track bridge and running up to 192 bullet trains across a brand-new dual-track bridge tall enough to allow ships to cross underneath without a bascule section. Don't go comparing apples to oranges please.

You may not give a damn about a bunch of wild birds, but there are many who care more about them than the care about Menlo Park or Palo Alto. The notion that this is all about what San Jose, let alone Caltrain want, no longer holds water - if it ever did.

HSR has now moved up to the level of national transportation policy, even if the amounts dedicated to it are still small compared to the highway fund. I can't see Secr. of Transportation Ray LaHood or Pres. Obama endorsing and funding a California system that would run willy-nilly through a designated national wildlife refuge. Tunneling? Maybe, but you'd essentially have to continue underground all the way to Pleasanton, right across two active fault systems (Hayward + Calaveras) or else, across the active salt ponds to CA-262. Altamont-via-Dumbarton is nowhere near as trivial as an HSR route as you seem to believe.

Besides, in order for HSR to build sufficient ridership to justify the enormous investment, it is essential that every train stop at both ends of the SF peninsula in the early years. Once ridership is robust enough to support at least 6-8 trains per hour (each way) between the Bay Area and SoCal during peak period, it may be appropriate to terminate some of them in the south bay.

This implies reserving yard space for HSR trains now, well before BART (aka the Octopus) usurps every last square inch of VTA's vast Newhall yard in Santa Clara. This is true even if CHSRA manages to implement its preferred route through Pacheco Pass.

r. motorist said...

Is putting a crossing through the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge really such a big deal? I recall Kopp in a radio interview emphasizing how utterly ridiculous it was to try and build something in the refuge. I assumed this was just transparent Pacheco boosting, since the Sierra Club was initially in favor of the Altamont route which included the bridge. Also, last time I visited the area there were already two bridges there.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

the YouTube video appears to give a fairly accurate representation of what the implementation CHSRA used for cost estimation would look like near the Churchill intersection. The trees are missing, as is all of Professorville, but then this gentleman was concerned primarily with the impact on properties in Southgate neighborhood (Mariposa).

An open viaduct with space underneath the tracks for shops, cafes, a promenade + bike path shielded from the elements would be less massive and re-connect neighborhoods, rather than perpetuate the bisection already imposed by the tracks. The total height of the structure could be reduces by implementing split grade separations, even if that means changing the elevation profile of Alma St as well.

However, as I discussed in my recent post La Vitrine, it might be preferable to run the trains in an enclosure at grade, diving below Churchill, E Meadow and Charleston to keep that at grade as well. Only Palo Alto Ave would need to be converted to a deep underpass, preferably as far from El Palo Alto as possible.

The caveat is that there are plenty of gravity-drained water conduits crossing under the train tracks, e.g. creeks, storm drains and (probably) some sewer mains. Trenching would require trains to dive under those or, reliable plumbing to ensure they can keep flowing under the trains. Doable but not trivial, any more than toxic plumes or emergency aquifers.

The notion that freight trains are limited to 1% gradient deserves to be challenged, they manage 2.2% in the Tehachapis and should do so for very short stretches in the peninsula as well.

Andrew Bogan said...

Union Pacific is just posturing for the best possible deal from CHSRA, they do not care about their intra-California north-south routes much at all from a business perspective.

Essentially all their focus and investment is on their route east from LA/Long Beach across the Southwest and into Chicago (i.e. to the rest of the United States) and their midwestern agricultural lines that carry grain. Have a look at their annual analyst fact book for investors on the subject of traffic density (which for freight correlates well with profits) on page 11 of the report (p.12 in the pdf).

Union Pacific's intra-California operation is almost irrelevant to their overall business. Their prickliness toward the CHSRA is just strategic posturing. UP's main concern from a business point of view is the development of the deep-water Mexican Pacific port at Lazaro Cardenas, which is exclusively served by Kansas City Southern and will compete effectively with UP and BNSF's duopoly position at LA/Long Beach in the future.

Sharing San Jose to Gilroy or other California right of way with HSR is the least of Union Pacific's concerns from a business perspective, so I seriously doubt they will actually obstruct anything when it actually matters.

Rafael said...

@ r.motorist -

@ andrew bogan -

rail freight within California is certainly subordinate to trucking, with the possible exception of bulk dry produce like almonds. However, UPRR runs quite a bit of freight up and down the West Coast and also between Oakland and Salt Lake City.

The routes are secondary to those through the San Gabriel Valley but obviously worth keeping in good repair.

Morris Brown said...

Andrew Bogen writes:

Union Pacific is just posturing for the best possible deal from CHSRA, they do not care about their intra-California north-south routes much at all from a business perspective.

Anyone can speculate all they want. However, the UPRR essential told the State they could take their offer of a $1 billion subsidy for building tracks in the Sierras and essentially go jump in the lake with it.

I believe it is a real myth they are going to cave on the SJ to Gilroy ROW. Now Kopp can talk all he wants about "the lawsuit hasn't been discussed in meetings" and it is of now concern, but if they can't use the corridor they have problems, that's why I speculate they are wanting to quickly study Altamont, most likely via a routing proposed by Rafael.

Andrew Bogan said...

@Morris Brown

My apologies, I had not intended to speculate, just to put words to UP's actions. They invested $900 million in growth capital into their business in 2007 and essentially none of it went into north-south routes in California, nor was any of the planned $1 billion for 2008 headed to the relevant HSR right of ways:

"Union Pacific spent approximately $900 million on growth capital in 2007. One of the Company’s key routes is the Sunset Corridor, which runs between Los Angeles and El Paso. This heavily traveled corridor carries about 20 percent of all traffic operated by the Railroad. UP added 33 miles of double track to the corridor in 2007, making it approximately 54 percent double tracked at year end. The Company plans to completely double track the route, supporting anticipated growth.

An important part of Union Pacific’s franchise is its access to the SPRB coal fields of northeastern Wyoming through a joint line, which we own with the BNSF (the Joint Line). Joint Line capacity expansion is underway, and in 2007 approximately 25 miles of third main track were added, making the line completely triple tracked. Portions of quadruple track were also added to the Joint Line in 2007, and continue in 2008.

The Company also spent approximately $45 million on technology to support growth during the year. Telecommunications upgrades, replacement of mainframe software systems, a new crew dispatching system and advancement of positive train control were the major technology spending initiatives during 2007.

In 2008, UP expects to spend approximately $1.0 billion for growth capital. Expansion of the Sunset Corridor and the Joint Line will continue during the year, and locomotives and freight cars will be added to support anticipated growth. Technology spending will continue, primarily to upgrade information technology systems and for testing of new operational technology such as positive train control."

Note how much of UP's internal investment plan talks about the HSR routes: not once. Admittedly nobody knows UP's actual intentions except their own management, but anything they do will require approval by their board of directors and management will certainly have to make a business case. I see no business case for UP in obstructing HSR in California, do you?

Andrew Bogan said...


Agreed that keeping freight railways in good repair is the best possible way to improve safety between freight and passenger trains. I was encouraged that one of UP's own existing initiatives is on active train control technology investments.

You are also correct that UP's route east from Oakland to Salt Lake has some significance. They also have routes from LA to Salt Lake and from Portland, Oregon to Chicago, although CN's route from Vancouver has the advantage of deeper water than Portland, which is on a river.

I'd be happy to chat sometime about freight rail in North America, which is an unexpectedly interesting topic (at least to me), but my emphasis here is just on the relative irrelevancy of the intra-California freight rail routes to the railroads' overall business.

Rafael said...

@ Andrew Bogan -

I don't think that UP is looking to expand capacity right now, except perhaps in the San Gabriel Valley. However, the reason they've been around for so long is that they don't sell ROW on main lines easily.

HSR is different from commuter rail in that it uses non-compliant trains that travel much faster and haul a lot more people. From UPRR's point of view, there are operational question marks that need answers before they will even begin to consider entering into ROW negotiations.

They may not be looking to expand business on the lines in question right now, but neither are they so hard up for cash that they will risk complicating matters and/or taking on additional liability.

So far, CHSRA has not yet convinced them that there are no complications to worry about.

Andrew Bogan said...

I believe Rafael (as usual) is spot on here. UP has no incentive to agree to anything until they understand the details, like which train sets are being considered, how track sharing with freight will be regulated, and what risks could be associated to signing an agreement with HSR.

My point is simply that all of those issues can be addressed, just not this early in the planning. So let's not assume that UP really intends to block HSR, more likely they just want a better deal with more clarity as to the cost/benefit analysis for themselves. The way I see it, CHSRA is quite fortunate that BNSF has been so accommodating to begin with, while UP is simply taking a more conservative initial posture (and that is speculation on my part).

yeson1a said...

The Sierra crossing is a whole differnt animal for UP. its the busy cross country intermodal line the rest of the UP lines in Norcal
is low volume.I say plan to stick with BNSF as much as possible and work/deal with UP only when there is no other choice

Tony D. said...

"However, the authority has a major problem with UPRR and the EIR they certified using a corridor that they can't use (SJ to Gilroy)"

"I believe it is a real myth they (UPRR) are going to cave on the SJ to Gilroy ROW."

Morris Brown, can you explain to me where you are getting all of this B.S.!? UPRR hasn't come out against HSR in that corridor! They haven't stated they won't let HSR use the corridor! I think Andrew Bogan hits the nail on the head (sorry Rafael): They are posturing for the best possible deal. A deal will be worked out and HSR will serve SJ via Pacheco Pass/UPRR. A lot of good stuff presented by Rafael but, respectfully, there's no story here. Unless, of course, you're still yearning for Altamont over Pacheco (which was settled months ago).

FYI, I live roughly two miles west of the UPRR corridor in Gilroy, and was brought up less than a mile east in South San Jose. I'm just not seeing that much freight traffic in the corridor. Yes, it's there (I hear the horns blaring every now and then), but definetely not "Port of Oakland, LA, Long Beach points east"-type freight traffic; not even close. Besides, the corridor between SJ and Gilroy, including Monterey Hwy. and adjacent farmlands, is plenty wide for both HSR/UPRR to co-exist.

Again, no story here.

Morris Brown said...

@Tony D.

I don't know where you are coming from, but quite obviously you haven't followed this project and are ignorant on this issue.

I don't think even Robert would contest that UPRR has has told CHSRA they cannot use their ROW from SF to Gilroy.

I took down our website which had posted the official letter from UPRR to the Authority on the matter. However here is a link to a story in the SF Chronicle confirming what I wrote.

Link to Article

yeson1a said...

What needs to happen IF UP is going to be major jerks is to go after them in the public as raising the cost to rip off the taxpayer. Or maby we need a grass roots effort force them Electrifiy all there ROW to offset the pollution there trains cause.They may change there tune here in Cali..

jim said...

I can't imagine the obama administration being as kissy face or patient with UP the way Bush's was. I doubt the current admin. has any qualms about bring back some regulation if need be.

jim said...

Where are the sleazy hardball politicians when you need them?

jim said...

There is so much room on the 101 down to gilroy and a great spot for station at wat looks like the outlets at the 152 interchange. why even mess with UP. Caltrans has a much wider row.

jim said...

you know from blossom hill rd to 152 there is more than enough caltrans row to put in hsr.

Spokker said...

Hey jim, I'm guilty of this too sometimes but come on man, put your thoughts into one post!

jim said...

I know. its usually quite here this time of night. Sorry I like seeing the flag. So to summarize; screw U P, if the politicians can't "encourage" them to cooperate use the 101. I thought HSR had all this crap taken care of already. geez.

Anonymous said...

Safety is immutable.

FAA doesn't cut different deals on how airlines operate. Polices are established for airspace by the FAA.

I don't see how the proximity of HSR and freight are okay for one rail carrier but a safety concern for another.

Clem said...

a California system that would run willy-nilly through a designated national wildlife refuge.

@Rafael, curious to have your opinion of the wetland / wilderness / wildlife impacts of Pacheco. You don't often mention those, for some odd reason.

Now Kopp can talk all he wants about "the lawsuit hasn't been discussed in meetings"

@Morris, check the CHSRA board meeting minutes. There is routine discussion of litigation, as allowed behind closed doors.

-- regarding Gilroy ---

Note that the CHSRA plans a 125 mph restriction at Gilroy, interrupting the 220 mph pace for EVERY train and wasting several minutes of EVERY passenger's time in order to situate an HSR station smack in the middle of Gilroy.

Joe Sez said...



Isn't the purpose of HSR to service population centers ? Slowing to 125 because HSR will service a city center. Awesome!!

Gilroy is a natural junction in the south county and connector to Monterey/Salinas which should increase ridership.

Tony D. said...

That old SF Gate article is old hat! Been discussed ad nauseam and was only "news" to critics like yourself. For the record, there is no "booming freight business" going on in the SJ/Gilroy corridor, and unless we build massive ports in SJ/Alviso or Monterey, there never will be. And for the record, I have followed the HSR story and am not ignorant on the issue; just viewing everything through the lens of reality.

anon 11:35
"I don't see how the proximity of HSR and freight are okay for one rail carrier but a safety concern for another." That's the whole story in a nutshell. And don't give us this crap that because UPRR has been around since the stone age that they have God-like authority.

Rafael said...

@ Tony D -

I wasn't focused narrowly on SJ-Gilroy, I was looking at the statewide picture. It's true that there is quite a bit of room south of San Jose for CHSRA to stay out of UPRR's hair. The same is not true in San Jose itself, so it depends how pedantic UPRR wants to be.

This is not about any intention to boost traffic volume. It's about UPRR's beef with the CHSRA, which isn't a railroad and summarily dismissed safety considerations raised by a company that's been around for a century and a half. It's about a lack of respect.

@ anon @ 11:35am, Tony D -

if and when FRA draws up rules regarding how passenger trains are to run next to freight tracks, they will apply universally. For now, only UPRR has made an issue of the derailment risk, whereas BNSF has not.

@ Clem -

my understanding is that those grasslands east of Los Banos are not a national wildlife refuge, which means the Administration wouldn't have a major political problem on its hands if it decided to throw some funding CHSRA's way.

The Great Valley Grasslands State Park is located well north of the preferred route.

In terms of construction, the train will run at grade next to an existing rural road, but the speed and frequency of the trains will likely have a much greater impact. I wouldn't be surprised if the occasional critter ended up on a train's windscreen. Let's just hope some teenage "hunter" doesn't get the smart idea of shooting at passing trains, just of for kicks, once the signs start to bore him.

The fuss about the grasslands was mostly about preventing development near Los Banos. An HSR station there would have prompted residential development within 25 minutes of Silicon Valley, depressing real estate values there.

Note that Sacramento Int'l Airport (SMF) is seeking an exemption from state laws to keep operating smack in the middle of the Pacific Flyway during migration season.

(*cough* Castle Airport *cough*)

Wrt Pacheco, I'm more concerned about the geology:

"[...] the Pacheco Pass crossing has nearly 14 km in tunnels, and the Pacheco Pass-Gilroy Bypass has nearly 19 km in tunnels – all these tunnels are through Franciscan rock. High rock variability is especially difficult for TBM methods, and may generate drilling delays as TBM bits are changed for different rock types. [...]
Areas where serpentine bedrock (serpentinite) is exposed may be the source of asbestos fibers that may be released during grading operations."

Rafael said...

@ Clem -

afaik, the plan has long been to run trains at 100-150mph max between Gilroy and SFO.

Granted, that's a range, but 125mph is smack in the middle of it. No-one ever said trains would run through Gilroy or Morgan Hill at 220mph.

Anonymous said...

@ Rafael

I'm sorry but you are dead wrong on the Edwards wetlands issue "Save the Bay" and the Friends of Edwards group (not sure the exact name) BOTH supported Altamont and going through the Don Edwards park instead of the the Pacheco area wetlands.

Any statements by officials that the "greenies" make Alatamont impossible is ignorance, or worse lies.

Please stop repeating such untruths. You can look into the Draft EIR comments for the Central Valley to Bay Area routing to see the letters and statements of all the groups. No Environmental group went on record opposing Altamont and Endorsing because of Don Edwards Park.

- B

pa_Marcher said...

Diridon is spreading lies about this project! Here is why PA is upset...

Here's Diridon saying hundreds of meetings were held to let Palo Alto know what was coming its way:

Here is an actual map of where meetings were held using data from CAHSR website....

Come on! How can anyone say this was adequate notice?! fyi - here's the list of where meetings were held...

mike said...

Rafael - Technically the run simulations that Clem cites show the train peaking at 186 mph between Gilroy and San Jose. The funny thing is, equivalent run times could be achieved (actually, maybe even slightly faster) by raising the speed limit through Gilroy from 125 mph (200 km/h) to 156 mph (250 km/h) while simultaneously lowering the speed limit from Gilroy to South San Jose from 186 mph (300 km/h) to 156 mph (250 km/h).

Regardless, I wouldn't take the run simulations as a binding indicator of exactly how the system will be built. For starters, they were performed back in 2006...much has changed since then.

Anonymous said...

I see from that article that Gilroy is ALSO demanding trenching and undergrounding because the monorail above ground trains are an eyesore. This is GILROY we are talking about. So Gilroy goes underground and Palo Alto, San Jose do not? Puhleeze. Looks to me like this is going to be undergrounded everywhere or it doesn't get built. Well, that was sure predictable- the obvious way to build HSR was to put it in rural areas with commuter feeder trains into big cities.

As far as the environmentalists here is all you need to know about which route they favored from the Sierra Club, and why.

Bay Area Resident said...

What needs to happen IF UP is going to be major jerks is to go after them in the public as raising the cost to rip off the taxpayer. Or maby we need a grass roots effort force them Electrifiy all there ROW to offset the pollution there trains cause.They may change there tune here in Cali..

Thats going to be about as successful as a lead balloon. The ripping off of the taxpayer has already happened based on this obvious misfire on CHOICE OF ROUTE. Any northern CA citizen can see that. Going after UP on safety issues and framing it as a taxpayer revolt will only reopen the route discussion. Not that it isn't reopened already.

Eric said...

Anon 9:20,

Do some more research. The Sierra Club endorsed Prop 1A. Enough of the lies by bringing up an old news article. They changes their minds, partially because a station was removed in Los Banos and among other reasons.

Bay Area Resident,

There has been no rip off of the taxpayer. The only rip off to the taxpayer will paying for the fight against the bogus lawsuit against people like you.

You people are like little children, you cry and whine and make up lies trying to get what you want. L Grow up!

Alon Levy said...

I don't see how the proximity of HSR and freight are okay for one rail carrier but a safety concern for another.

The issue is that FRA regulations are not all that conducive to safety. For example, Caltrain recently discovered that the crash safety rule actually reduces safety, even if you hold everything else constant.

In general, it's standard for the regulated bodies to lobby for changes in regulations that are favorable to them. For example, passenger rail has an interest in nationwide implementation of PTC; heavy freight doesn't. What's happening right now is that UPRR wants new regulations about corridor-sharing, whereas BNSF doesn't think they're necessary. But whichever solution comes out will likely be implemented uniformly.

Clem said...

@Joe Sez

Isn't the purpose of HSR to service population centers ? Slowing to 125 because HSR will service a city center. Awesome!!

Slowing down is only useful if you're going to stop. Not all trains will stop in the great metropolis of Gilroy. Slowing everyone to 125 mph (including the trains that don't stop in Gilroy) makes no sense.

Gilroy is a natural junction in the south county and connector to Monterey/Salinas which should increase ridership.

If Gilroy is a south county regional station, most ridership will be from the local region and not downtown Gilroy itself, and will arrive at the station by car. That's why a downtown Gilroy arrangement is worse than a site just outside of town next to 101, e.g. behind the factory outlets.

But now, Gilroy is about to get the most expensive, least effective, slowest, highest-impact, and most inaccessible solution of all.

No-one ever said trains would run through Gilroy or Morgan Hill at 220mph.

Gilroy is in a flat valley with lots of open farm land. Precisely the sort of geography where 220 mph actually makes sense... all the more so for northbound trains barreling downhill from the pass, and for southbound trains needing all the kinetic energy they can get in order to climb quickly over the pass.

mike said...

Anonymous - Your silly elitism is not even thinly veiled. Everyone wants undergrounding, and a pony too. The question is who can afford to pay for it. If Palo Alto can afford to pay for it, then likely they'll get it. If Gilroy can afford to pay for it, then likely they'll get it. Since Palo Alto is richer, the former is more likely to be true than the latter. End of story.

Spokker said...

"Everyone wants undergrounding, and a pony too."

Not me. I want to ride the train in the daylight, not in a dark tunnel. I love watching the scenery whiz by. I want to see 125MPH operation, preferably above ground.

David S said...

Rafael - I didn't really mean obama would need to "strong arm" them, but with all this stimulus money running around right now, it seems like getting the feds involved could cut some sort of a deal.

"You're worried about safety, how about we pay you to implement PTC as a stimulus project."

Stuff like that.

Andrew Bogan said...

@Anonymous 9:20am

"Looks to me like this is going to be undergrounded everywhere or it doesn't get built. Well, that was sure predictable- the obvious way to build HSR was to put it in rural areas with commuter feeder trains into big cities."

Actually the above suggestion is non-obvious and also false, since no HSR system on earth has been implemented this way. They all terminate right in the middle of major population centers, which is one of HSR's main advantages over freeways. Passengers can go from city center to city center efficiently and then use local transit (walking, subway, light rail, taxi, etc.) the short distance to their final destination.

Tunnels (which I personally support for certain sections, if they are not cost-prohibitive) are worthwhile in relatively few places on the HSR route--a vast majority of which (in terms of track mileage) will be in rural areas already.

The distance from Gilroy to SF is about 80 miles and it is inconceivable that a tunnel of that length will be the preferred alignment for HSR.

Some sections will almost certainly be underground, like the tunnels through mountain passes and the approach to the SF Transbay Terminal. Others, like Palo Alto, may or may not end up underground. I happen to support a full study of tunneling for the mid-Peninsula cities where residential neighborhoods abut both sides of the tracks, but it is not the only viable option.

The NIMBY views against HSR tend to be narrow-minded, selfish, and often inaccurate. I do not fault anyone for worrying about their own backyard, but if you bought a house on a >100 year old rail right of way (presumably for a significant discount in the first place), please do not conclude that you own that rail right of way and have veto power over its use for a major statewide infrastructure project. That makes as much sense as believing that you get to decide what color your neighbors paint their garage.

r. motorist said...

Do some more research. The Sierra Club endorsed Prop 1A.

That's true, but that is not really the point in this case. The point is that they initially favored a crossing over the Bay, or at least didn't oppose it as it would be so environmentally destructive. Any claim that it would be infeasible to cross the DENWP on environmental grounds should be taken with a grain of salt.

@Andrew -

It isn't true that no HSR system on Earth has been implemented through rural areas in conjunction with feeder trains. I've read about France's HSR on this Blog and it appears to have been constructed this way. In addition, Taiwan's high speed rail stations, with the exception of Taipei Station and a planned extension to GaoXiong station, are all in suburban/rural areas which are remote from the city centers. For most of these station there are plans to tie them in with future Metro lines. As it is now, GaoXiong and TaiZhong HSR stations are located with transfer stations to conventional rail.

Some people previously opposed the project because they thought it would do a poor job of serving urban areas. It also was subject to lengthy delays. If I recall correctly, it was 2 or 3 years behind schedule. In the end it did turn out to be quite successful though.

Andrew Bogan said...

@r. motorist

I think you misunderstood my point if you think the TGV doesn't serve France's urban centers or that THSR does not serve the major cities in Taiwan, both were built to do exactly that. TSHR goes from Taipei to Kaohsiung, that is between the two largest urban centers in Taiwan. That some of the intermediate stations are in suburban locations is not really at issue. I was not really talking about whether Merced's station should be right downtown or a mile away.

The model that many NIMBYs advocate is to have HSR only in rural areas with any connections to dense suburbia or urban centers via commuter rail. Something like the old (foolish) concept of building HSR with its northern terminus in Tracy, then commuting to SF on BART, Caltrain, or hitchhiking. This model does not work and has not been implemented anywhere, to my knowledge.

Agreed that not every station can be practically located in an old town center (like Shin-Osaka and Shin-Yokohama), but whenever possible they tend to be. The new stations often become city centers in their own right (again look at Shin-Osaka).

Fred Martin said...

The fastest, most effective, and cost-efficient way to build a California HSR system is to focus all attention on building a single 220mph alignment from Stockton to LA going along the I-5 corridor and crossing the Grapevine. This single "speedway" would be connected to the urban commuter feeder services in the Bay Area and LA, and HSR trains could run onto the modestly upgraded regional commuter networks.

No UPRR issues.
Hardly any grade separations.
Top speeds for hundreds of miles.

This really isn't that hard to do. Building along the I-5 is easy and cheap with hardly any grade separations or NIMBYs. Crossing the Grapevine would be expensive, but well worth the effort for the premium access to the LA basin.

Bay Area Resident said...

Anonymous - Your silly elitism is not even thinly veiled. Everyone wants undergrounding, and a pony too. The question is who can afford to pay for it. If Palo Alto can afford to pay for it, then likely they'll get it. If Gilroy can afford to pay for it, then likely they'll get it. Since Palo Alto is richer, the former is more likely to be true than the latter. End of story.

Haha, oh mr. naive one. NOT end of story. Under CEQA there is such a thing as a matter of environmental and social justice, and it doesn't matter who the heck chooses to PAY FOR IT. You cannot, by law, ruin any economically disadvantaged regions for any CEQA project any moreso than any wealthy regions. If Palo Alto chooses to pay for their own undergrounding that won't matter. HSR is a CEQA project and tunnels in Palo Alto mean tunnels everywhere- hows that for the end of the story?

Fred Martin said...

I might add that the Sierra Club did advocate for the Altamont Pass, and the Sierra Club very reluctantly endorsed Prop. 1A. The Sierra Club was all for HSR, but they didn't like the Pacheco alignment. The reason why Altamont is still on the table is a concession to get the Sierra Club's support for Prop. 1A.

Was the Sierra Club a "denier" too?

Andre Peretti said...

r.motorist is right. The TGV-Med starts from the centre of Paris and arrives in the Centre of Marseille, but all stations in-between are out of town. This allows the 470 miles to be covered in exactly 3 hours. It also allowed the line to be built quickly with little litigation as it avoids densely buit-up areas. These stations "in the middle of nowhere" are far more popular than the even the SNCF had expected if we judge by the fact the parking lots are always full and random parking has become a traffic hazard (example at Avignon-TGV).
The SNCF considers the TGV as a plane on wheels and tends to build "railports".
It has also been noted that 1/3 of the riders who take the TGV at CDG airport terminal are non-flyers, which proves many people find out-of-town stations more convenient.

Bay Area Resident said...

There has been no rip off of the taxpayer. The only rip off to the taxpayer will paying for the fight against the bogus lawsuit against people like you.

You people are like little children, you cry and whine and make up lies trying to get what you want. L Grow up!

It is CHSRA that needs to grow up. ANY HSR put forth on a route like this peninsula route - anywhere in the country- would be thwarted immediately. That is obvious to all which is why prop 1A was worded as it was. You cannot insert HSR in bedroom communities and within 20 feet of schools in suburbia. DUH! From day one when this project was put forth on Caltrain the CHSRA should have said "wait a minute- we'll never get this through" and got on the horn with Caltrans about 101 or 280. But they didn't do that, for very clearly elucidated POLITICAL REASONS. These peninsula politics remind me of the transbay brouhaha. This is very poorly received political posturing rammed through by CHSRA.

You want support of this train? Improve the management at CHSRA. Make smarter, less opaque decisions.

Anonymous said...

Wow BayAreaResident...

You think declaring over several years in advance that the Caltrain ROW was the ONLY route going forward, then having a statewide ballot, is "opaque"?


As opposed to what? Sending a staff person to every home in California to sit down with you for tea?

Get. Real.

- B

Andrew Bogan said...


If your only contribution is to say that no above ground solution will ever be acceptable for HSR on the Peninsula, why not just state that once and be done with it?

Many of your fellow Bay Area residents do not agree with you.

Bay Area Resident said...

Bogan, that is a mischaracterization of my point. I believe that an above ground implementation along the Caltrain ROW on the peninsula is unacceptable, and large numbers of people agree which is having a net effect of thwarting this train. Above ground would be fine near freeways, just not for in town or suburban bedroom communities. This same POV has been reiterated by San Mateo, Gilroy and almost every town in between except the few lucky ones where the Caltrain is already aligned with open space like Sunnyvale.

Bay Area Resident said...

Anonymous, yes I do think it was deliberately opaque bordering on fraudulent. As that other Anonymous posted here, Diridon has stated that **NUMEROUS** meetings were held in Palo Alto to promote this train on the peninsula when in fact exactly ZERO meetings were held in Palo Alto according to the CHSRA website. Diridon has also stated recently that the only Palo Alto people against this train are the people who live within 2 blocks of the train- another gross misrepresentation. The man is a giant BS machine.

NONIMBYS said...

IS the Palo Alto online down? I see nimby dribble

Spokker said...

"Above ground would be fine near freeways"

What about the drivers who see the new train and are like, "Wow, look at that train!" and crash into the center divider because they were preoccupied with this incredible French HSR technology.

Didn't think of that, eh? Sounds like some environmental justice just got served!

Spokker said...

"but all stations in-between are out of town. This allows the 470 miles to be covered in exactly 3 hours. It also allowed the line to be built quickly with little litigation as it avoids densely buit-up areas. These stations "in the middle of nowhere" are far more popular than the even the SNCF had expected if we judge by the fact the parking lots are always full and random parking has become a traffic hazard (example at Avignon-TGV)."

Well, here's another point of view.

From the Wikipedia page on the TGV.

"However, LGV route designers have tended to build new intermediate stations in suburban areas or in the open countryside several kilometers away from cities. This allows TGVs to stop without incurring too great a time penalty, since more time is spent on high speed track; in addition, many cities' stations are stub-ends, while LGV tracks frequently bypass cities. In some cases, stations have been built halfway between two communities. The station serving Montceau-les-Mines and Le Creusot is an example, and a more controversial example is Haute Picardie station, between Amiens and Saint-Quentin. The press and local authorities criticized Haute Picardie as being too far from either town to be convenient, and too far from connecting railway lines to be useful for travellers. The station was nicknamed la gare des betteraves, or 'beet station', as it was surrounded by sugar beet fields during construction. This nickname is now applied to similar stations away from town and city centres, whether in the vicinity of beet fields or not."

Andrew Bogan said...

NIMBY rhetoric seems to lack grounding in the basis of NIMBYism. I do understand why some people with backyards along a rail right of way do not want HSR built. I do not, however, understand why the NIMBYs try to mask their arguments in the terms of everyone else's opinions or desires instead of their own. Perhaps they are embarrassed by the selfishness of their views?

Everyone is selfish some of the time. For example, it is selfish of me to want the mid-Peninsula HSR station located here in Palo Alto, since I would (selfishly) like to board the train here in our city instead of having to go to Redwood City or San Jose.

However, my selfish interest in having a Palo Alto Station aligns with the fact that Palo Alto has the #2 ridership (after SF) on Caltrain, which suggests that this location would allow the most people to benefit from a mid-Peninsula HSR Station. Happily, that means my selfish interests are well supported by ridership statistics.

It is not clear to me how the selfish interest of blocking HSR in the rail right of way behind one's house is supported by much of anything, since essentially nobody besides a very few homeowners along the right of way would benefit and the cost (of nobody in California having HSR) is very high and widespread.

I don't mind selfish interests, but I really don't like distorted cost/benefit analysis.

Spokker said...

I'm selfish in the sense that I do not want to ride in a dark tunnel on a train unless it's absolutely necessary. It's also selfish of me to want to be able to take pictures of the train above ground as they pass through the peninsula.

But if tunneling was the only way to get it built, I wouldn't try to block the project.

I honestly wouldn't mind it being build in my "backyard" either. I mean, I've been a frequent pedestrian for about two years now. I walk more than I ever did, and sometimes I am uneasy around these roads. They are noisy, smelly and dangerous to cross sometimes. But while improvements can be made, I also understand they are necessary to keep the economy going.

HSR will be a huge step up from roads. Grade separated and no local pollutants. That sounds like a great deal to me. I can only dream of bike-only and pedestrian-only infrastructure. I wish all the roads were grade separated!

Bay Area Resident said...

heh, no I did not think of that spokker! So freeway rubberneckers are enough to halt any freeway ROW train development?

I have to admit it is encouraging to see the train geeks that post here though, being as infrastructure is the #1 priority of the nation for good reason. If I had my way you all would be all over the energy issues generally including the grid and not just trains. The transbay terminal team seems to be highly motivated also.

Rafael said...

@ BAR -

it seems to me you are unaware of the EIR/EIS process. The first stage is called "program" and refers to the definition of the preferred route. At this stage, public hearings are held in major cities but not every town and hamlet along the way.

CHSRA held at least 5 such hearings in the Bay Area:

Apr 15, 2004: SF
May 26, 2004: SJ
Aug 23, 2007: SF
Aug 24, 2007: SJ
Jul 8 & 9, 2008: SF

Note that in addition, CHSRA invited comments from federal, state and local governments plus non-governmental organizations plus comments from individuals submitted via the web (email, presumably).

If you were unaware of these meetings and other opportunities to make your voice heard, don't blame CHSRA or anyone else for it.

Andre Peretti said...

You think it's an unreal joke? Well, some French drivers did exactly that when they saw their first TGV.

Spokker said...

I did something else when I saw my first TGV, let me tell ya.

mike said...

Bay Area Resident - You badly misunderstand the provisions of CEQA. There is no "environmental justice" provision in the CEQA. Don't believe me? Check out the public resource code text here (Sections 21000-21117 are the relevant ones) or the CEQA rule-making guidelines here. You may also find this document to be useful.

Just because you want to believe something is true doesn't make it so! The only sense in which your claim has any truth would be if both Palo Alto and Gilroy requested that CHSRA analyze a tunnel alignment, but CHSRA only did the analysis for Palo Alto but not for Gilroy. Then Gilroy could sue CHSRA for ignoring its comments (though it could do this regardless of what happened in Palo Alto). And yes, that's pretty much the end of the story.

Bay Area Resident said...

mike, I am not a lawyer but I have attended numerous reviews featuring CEQA legal experts on HSR in the last 2 mos. Virtually all of them stated the environmental justice is the easiest way to thwart a CEQA project- which won't work for Palo Alto of course. Here is the basic tenet which I pulled from the web,

Executive Order 12898, rooted in the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, provides a more recent impetus for health effects analysis in EIA, requiring that "each Federal agency make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high adverse human health and environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low income populations" (Clinton 1994). The CEQ guidance on implementing Executive Order 12898 directs federal agencies to consider "ecological, cultural, human health, economic, or social impacts on minority communities, low-income communities, or Indian tribes when those impacts are interrelated to impacts on the natural or physical environment" (CEQ 1997b). In an example of the use of this guidance, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied the license for a nuclear fuel enrichment facility near two small, predominantly minority rural communities because the project would have eliminated a road between the two communities (Bass 1998).

The situation with HSR is that the Peninsula is demanding a tunnel, which may or may not be paid for by them- that issue is immaterial. Meanwhile the neighborhoods in San Jose where this train goes on the way to Diridon are designated as low income neighborhoods currently executing under a City action plan. These are the neighborhoods in and around Diridon. The CHSRA is proposing an elevated grade through that route that is significantly higher than other elevated grades due to nearby freeways in the area - some estimates say 80' grades over neighborhoods decending from 280 into Diridon. This is an elevated freeway right through and already blighted area with EXISTING City designation as blighted. Meanwhile Palo Alto and Atherton get a tunnel for the same project, and the CHSRA is claiming the entire project is minimal impact because the Caltrain ROW already exists in these areas. Sound like a social justice case to you- an 80' elevated barrier through a City designated action plan community- vs a Palo Alto tunnel? Most of the work on social justice cases falls under 1)proving a specific area is blighted/low income and 2)proving the new program disproportionately targets said area. But here, you have a neighborhood already designated by the city and an 80' grade! Hard to argue with that, honestly. But go ahead, try.

Bay Area Resident said...

mike, I see the confusion in your post. I was not thinking that this is about Palo Alto vs Gilroy. I don't really know what Gilroy's demographics are. I was thinking about the San Jose area which is formally designated by the city as blighted and is hearing proposals of trapeze height tracks. This won't fly (in San Jose) if Palo Alto gets a tunnel or trench or even a nice grade, and it really won't fly if both Gilroy and Palo Alto get a trench, that was my only point. Honestly I support this sort of legislation (CEQA environmental justice) now that I see it in action. Those communities in San Jose would have been rolled over in another time.

Alon Levy said...

Let the communities in SJ voice their concerns, then. If people in Harlem can do it, so can people in SJ.

EJ said...

Not to mention - has CHSRA held any of their meetings in Spanish? In Mandarin? Have they posted their materials (EIR/EIS) in any non-english languages? Hmmm...

Spokker said...

They barely have enough funds to get their documents out in English.

jim said...

@EJ why would they have to do it multiple languages? If people are interested in being involved they should learn to read.

Anonymous said...

"If push came to shove, the Obama administration would think twice about trying to strong-arm one of only a handful of companies transporting goods between the coast and the vast interior of the country."

It would take him about two minutes before deciding to do it. BNSF was successfully pressured by *Washington State*'s threat of condemnation on the Seattle-Everett corridor. Railroads run at very tight profit margins, and currently their biggest fear is price regulation, which has a serious chance of coming back.

UP will deal. I assume they're simply staking out a bargaining position and hoping to get maximum $$$ out of it, as is their right. They are not going to stop the project, or even relocate it, not in this political environment.


Anonymous said...

"the reason they've been around for so long is that they don't sell ROW on main lines easily."

Not really. They "survived", and they have as much ROW as they do, because they merged with a whole bunch of other companies. (Actually, very few west-of-Mississippi lines went totally bust; BNSF has a similar history.)

They've sold just as much ROW on main lines over the years as any other Class I railroad, as far as I can tell. Look at that massive Metrolink sale.


Anonymous said...

"Note that Sacramento Int'l Airport (SMF) is seeking an exemption from state laws to keep operating smack in the middle of the Pacific Flyway during migration season."

Not sure where this came from but such cannot be further from the truth. Infact, most of the state is in teh Pacific Flyway and state law does not preclude operation of an airport in teh flyway.