Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thoughts from the Menlo Park Town Hall

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

First off, it was a pleasure to meet so many of you in person last night at the Menlo Park town hall event. For those of you who were there and who I didn't get to talk to, my apologies, I'm sure we'll reconnect at the Palo Alto HSR "teach-in" on September 12. I even got to say hello to Morris Brown and Martin Engel, and they were cordial and friendly to me as I was to them. It's not about personal attacks to me - I think they're wrong on pretty much everything to do with HSR, but that doesn't make them bad people.

I also don't know how I would have gotten through the whole meeting without being able to let off steam by making snarky comments about stupid questions to Bianca, especially since my iPhone died with about 20 minutes left in the evening (if you were following the twitter feed and noticed that the tweets didn't go to 9pm, that's why. Don't worry, you didn't miss anything important).

Overall Anna Eshoo deserves credit for hosting this event, and for bringing together folks from Caltrain and the CHSRA to talk about the high speed rail plans. Eshoo ran a good event - folks submitted questions or comments on cards, and Eshoo worked her way through an impressive amount of the hundreds of cards submitted. She promises that either her staff, Caltrain or the CHSRA will respond to each and every card that didn't get answered in person.

Eshoo also did a good job of pushing the panelists to answer the questions that were asked as directly as possible. That was necessary to help build some trust between the audience and the panel, although as I'll explain, that was an uphill battle from the start, as many in the audience had already made up their minds about the CHSRA.

Unfortunately, Eshoo's skills as a moderator did not outweigh her overall lack of familiarity with the project. Eshoo is a Menlo Park homeowner who lives very close to the tracks - "few people live closer to the tracks than I do," she explained several times during the evening. At times her perspective seemed to be that of a typical local - she said "I want less noise, I don't want a 40 foot wall, I don't want to lose my home." Of course, she should have known that there would be less noise, that a 40-foot wall was highly unlikely, and that she wouldn't lose her home. Caltrain and CHSRA officials made those points repeatedly during the night, but I am not quite sure Eshoo understood those points.

I get the sense Eshoo called this meeting in response to numerous constituent complaints about the project, because Eshoo did not show she really understood the HSR project in any detail. One of the evening's most stunning moments came when she realized that the CHSRA already made the decision about the route for the trains before Prop 1A was approved. Eshoo seemed to have it in her head that the whole route itself was still up for grabs, and not just the details of its implementation.

Further, she seemed to be dismayed that Prop 1A included a detailed routing based on the Final statewide EIR. Which is equally stunning to me. Did she expect people to vote for vaporware? To give $9 billion to a project that had no details nailed down?

Eshoo's apparent surprise that a route had been selected before Prop 1A went to voters, and her claims that she didn't know about it, really do not make her look very good. As a sitting Congresswoman she should have known these things. The route debate got widespread media coverage last year, including on the Peninsula. For her to miss that rather key detail suggests she wasn't really paying close attention to what goes on in her district.

And as it turns out, Eshoo did know of these key details - at least she did as of August 2007, when she signed the following letter to the CHSRA, alongside other Bay Area Congressional representatives including Zoe Lofgren, Tom Lantos, Mike Honda and my own rep, Sam Farr:

Title: Letter to Mehdi Morshed, Executive Director, California High Speed Rail Authority
Date: 08/24/2007
Location: Washington, DC
Letter to Mehdi Morshed, Executive Director, California High Speed Rail Authority

Five California Members Sign Letter Calling for Pacheco Pass Route

Washington, D.C. - Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), joined with Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), Sam Farr (D-Monterey), Mike Honda (D-Campbell), and Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) in signing a letter strongly endorsing the Pacheco Pass route for California's High Speed Rail Project.

The complete text of the letter is below:

Mehdi Morshed
Executive Director
California High Speed Rail Authority
925 L St., Ste. 1425
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Mr. Morshed,

We are writing to express our strong support of California's High Speed Rail Project. We believe that the project will transform the state's transportation network into a much safer system that will serve our growing population for this century and the next in a way that can boost our economy while protecting our environment.

We recently reviewed the Northern Mountain Crossing Corridor Study you released concerning different possible routes from the Bay Area to the Central Valley. We all agree that the High Speed Train network should serve all three major cities: San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. However, upon reviewing the document it is clear that the Pacheco Pass alternative provides a better level of service with a greater number of trains stopping in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose on a daily basis. The Pacheco Pass route is also the least damaging to our region's natural resources.

In order to connect the Bay Area to the Central Valley using an alternative option, the Altamont Pass, would require building a new high level bridge over the San Francisco Bay. The Altamont Pass option would also require construction through the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge with additional impacts on the San Francisco Bay and Palo Alto shore of the Bay. This alone is a good enough reason in our opinion to reject the Altamont Pass outright. The impact the Altamont Pass would have on the environment could well make us rethink our support of any federal funding for the project.

We believe there is sufficient and compelling data to determine that the Pacheco Pass is the best option for the High Speed Train to serve the Bay Area. We thank you for your consideration and will continue to follow the issue closely.

Sincerely,

Zoe Lofgren
Michael Honda
Anna Eshoo
Sam Farr
Tom Lantos


So I don't know what Eshoo is talking about when she expressed surprise about the routing choices. True, Eshoo did not come off last night as a pro-Altamont person. Instead she came off as someone who really didn't understand some of the key project details. I hope she had some private meetings with Caltrain and CHSRA staff before the town hall, and that the town hall wasn't her first encounter with some of these issues.

Eshoo did have some other very good points, including the need for the CHSRA to improve its outreach. But if I'm a Peninsula resident, I'd be somewhat annoyed and troubled that my Congressional rep gave off an impression that she hadn't been paying attention to the details 10-year long development of a project that would bring significant change (for the better) to my region.

Two of the panelists were Caltrain staff - executive director Mike Scanlon and project advisor Bob Doty. Both of them were very, very impressive. Scanlon showed he clearly understands the need for the project as well as the locals' concerns. He emphasized that this is about survival for Caltrain, and that without electrification, Caltrain may not be able to continue operations. Caltrain needs partners to do the electrification, which will dramatically cut their costs. The state of California is no longer able to be that partner. So Caltrain needs CHSRA and its federal funding.

I don't quite think the Peninsula NIMBYs understood this point (and they would probably refuse to accept it even if they did). Their vehement opposition to the HSR project could well destroy Caltrain. These towns are already choked with traffic as it is, including Menlo Park. They desperately need Caltrain to not only stay, but to improve.

Bob Doty was another very impressive speaker. He has project management experience on HSR projects around the world, from the Channel Tunnel to Korea. Like Scanlon he was able to give quick and direct answers to questions, connecting with the audience even when the audience didn't want to hear what he had to say. Doty reminded the audience that tunneling is an extremely complex and difficult undertaking, that the decision to do it is not nearly as simply as the NIMBYs have made it out to be.

I would love for Doty to wind up with a major position at the CHSRA. He has the expertise and the credibility to help provide the kind of leadership that the project needs. UPDATE: According to Clem, Doty is already working for the CHSRA:

Bob Doty is already working for the CHSRA. He reports 50% to Mike Scanlon (Caltrain) and 50% to Mehdi Morshed (HSR), in a dual-reporting arrangement initiated by the MOU between the two agencies.

Wonderful news. Back to the original post...

Mehdi Morshed and Dominic Spaethling represented the CHSRA. Spaethling didn't get many occasions to add comments, though he did a good job of explaining the upcoming public interaction process.

Morshed was on the hot seat most of the night. His performance was mixed. It's worth keeping in mind that Morshed is not a public speaker by training - he's a project engineer. Morshed acknowledged that he's been getting some help on public outreach, and he did his best to answer questions directly. Most of the time he did this well, even if his more determined opponents in the audience refused to accept his answers.

One example is a question a self-described Palo Alto NIMBY asked about the business plan. This question was highly misleading and was a clear attempt to sow disinformation. She asked whether the CHSRA was hiring a PR consultant to write the new business plan. Her implication was that the business plan would be a dishonest product full of spin and devoid of fact.

But as Morshed explained, that's not actually the case. The Authority is hiring a PR firm to design the final publication of the business plan - the typesetting, the pictures, the printing. NONE of the content will be produced by the PR team - that comes from the financial and project contractors who rightly have the skills and knowledge to produce that information.

It's not at all unusual for that arrangement to exist, whether it's a private or a public sector business plan in question. You want someone who knows PR to ensure that the plan is readable. The only reason anyone would make an issue out of this is if you wanted to undermine the public's confidence in the CHSRA.

Morshed did less well when asked about the tunnel. He tried to reassure people that it would be given a fair hearing, but he may have gone too far in that by saying that tunnel costs "would be the last thing considered" when looking at a tunnel. Obviously it needs to be as much a factor in the choice as anything else - the CHSRA needs to ensure that it is going to build a cost-effective system. I understand Morshed's dilemma here, but the CHSRA needs to make it clear to Peninsula residents that unless they are planning to pay for the tunnel themselves, it is not appropriate for the CHSRA to be reckless with public funds.

Overall, I don't think the town hall changed any minds. These things rarely do. Especially when there is a loud group of people who have already decided to believe that numerous myths are actually facts - and that if you point out that they aren't facts, the person who believed it will become indignant at the person doing the debunking.

In that way the HSR debate resembles the health care debate in many ways. Just as "death panels" and "socialized medicine" started to dominate the conversation around health care despite there not being any evidence to support those claims, we now have arguments about a "Berlin Wall" and people convinced that numerous houses will be lost even though a cursory glance at the ROW shows that takings will be very, very, very few in number (especially in the Atherton-Menlo Park-Palo Alto area).

What the town hall also showed is how difficult it has become to focus on the big picture. To their credit, Eshoo and Scanlon both pointed to the need for sustainable mass transportation, and Scanlon in particular understood that the 20th century model of transportation, relying on freeways, was no longer viable. The Peninsula was built on the railroad. It's time to give that railroad an upgrade.

The Peninsula needs political leadership that is determined to build HSR, and determined to build it right. My question of the night was oriented toward that very matter. I wanted to hear that those in attendance, Eshoo in particular, would see to it that critics of the HSR project would not be allowed to overturn the will of the voters, that HSR would be built in a way that was cost effective. Eshoo took issue with my claims about "HSR critics" and said that everyone in the room wanted HSR built, the question was instead about whether or not it should happen.

I don't think that is accurate. Judging from the questions Eshoo herself read, there were a lot of people who still questioned the basic premise of HSR. A clear statement that "this WILL be built and it will be built the right way" would have gone a long way toward pushing everyone toward constructive solutions. Instead I'll have to be content with Eshoo's claim that there are no HSR opponents. I'm going to hold her and the Peninsula to that claim. You too, Morris!

75 comments:

Bianca said...

The strongest take-away for me was how keeping CHSRA on a shoestring budget lo these many years has crippled its ability to do any effective community outreach. A lot of the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt seems to have gelled into a general distrust of much of what Mehdi Morshed said. It's true he wasn't as persuasive as one might have hoped, but he is an engineer, not a politician, and on top of that he's operating in a second language, so I'm inclined to cut him some slack.

As one of her constituents I was pretty startled at Anna Eshoo's professed ignorance of the routing. The Pacheco decision was pretty broadly discussed- after all, the litigation brought by Atherton & Menlo Park was initiated in August of 2008, so it's not like people didn't know.

ZOD said...

I found the town hall meeting to be very informational and very interesting in terms of the personalities it drew. I too was very dismayed to see Rep. Eshoo act so surprised by the fact that the Caltrain corridor had already been selected. And the fact that’s he continued to hammer on this point no only made her look misinformed but also gave credit to those who claim that it has been done in secret or that there is a conspiracy around the process thus far. The information is out there, and has been out there for some time.

Maybe I missed something from an earlier post, but I would like to get more information about this HSR teach-in in Palo Alto on Sept 12th. Do we have a time and location?

Keep up the great reporting. I have been following this issue from afar but would like tog et much more involved in actually working to see this project happen. I have always been a rail enthusiast and as an urban planner, this type of project can not happen soon enough.

AndyDuncan said...

And as it turns out, Eshoo did know of these key details - at least she did as of August 2007, when she signed the following letter to the CHSRA, alongside other Bay Area Congressional representatives including Zoe Lofgren, Tom Lantos, Mike Honda and my own rep, Sam Farr:

Wow.

Anonymous said...

If you want to see what Bechtel will build in the way of hsr just look to BART.

There will be no tunnel and the elevated will be totally and unimpeachably "brutalist"

Translation: ugly and noisy as can be engineered. form foliows function on steroids

Robert Cruickshank said...

Bianca, that is an excellent point. CHSRA had been fighting for its life during much of the Schwarzenegger Administration. They barely had the money to pay for the EIR work, and certainly did not have the resources they needed to do full public outreach.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Palo Alto Teach In

"Members of the public, elected officials, transit experts, transit agency representatives and rail enthusiasts are invited to the High Speed Rail Teach-In on Saturday, September 12, to learn about this once-in-a-century project being planned on the Peninsula. The workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Palo Alto City Hall, 250 Hamilton Street, Palo Alto. Admission is free, but space is limited."

I am going to build an "upcoming events" box in the sidebar of the blog later today to include events like this.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

Please, Anonymouse @ 10:27, don't assert things you know aren't true. FUD doesn't get you far in this forum. You got Brutalism when either: a) That's what you want, or b) That's all you want to pay for. I haven't seen any Brutalist designs for stations. They all appear to be quite well designed, if they may be at times a little over-the-top.

We're not a town-hall health care meeting.

Clem said...

@Robert: Bob Doty is already working for the CHSRA. He reports 50% to Mike Scanlon (Caltrain) and 50% to Mehdi Morshed (HSR), in a dual-reporting arrangement initiated by the MOU between the two agencies.

TROLLING STOCK said...

Where are you going to find the money to build this thing? I haven't figured it out yet?
$10 bln bond + $1 bln stimulus=$12 Bln.
Cost of construction in France: 15 mln Eur/km=$35 mln/mile (but based on mostly rural areas and virtually no tunneling). Projected cost/mile in California, with lots of urban area and tunneling=$70 mln./mile (and I'm being generous).
$11 bln/$60mln/mile=167 miles.

Will Fresno to San Jose satisfy your whims?
You want more?
SHOW ME THE MONEY!

TROLLING STOCK said...

Let me correct the typos:
$11 bln/$70 mln per mile=157 miles.
That's all you can build. Fresno to San Jose at best and that's it!Get over it! And don't even try the Peninsula or LA metro to Palmadale, otherwise forget $70 mln/mile. You'll need much more.

lyqwyd said...

Your right troll, there will be no more money, woe is us!

Oh the humanity!

Robert Cruickshank said...

Thanks for the clarification, Clem. That is excellent news.

BruceMcF said...

Trolling Stock, you don't even have your Stimulus funding request facts right ... you have confused the application for the first of three funding tracks with the application for all three funding tracks.

Indeed, since Prop1A does not allow spending bond money on construction for over 50% of the cost of that segment, if there is only $1b in other funding forthcoming you have nothing to worry about ... your "pave, pave, pave" Auto-Uber-Alles approach to transport is entirely safe in that scenario.

Rafael said...

Regarding Rep. Eshoo's apparent lack of preparation for the briefing: getting HSR built is only the largest single civil engineering project in the history of the state. It's the biggest thing to happen in the CA-14 district in quite a long time.

Seriously, how much can it cost to hire a congressional intern who help Mrs. Eshoo avoid looking so unprepared? Running a civil and productive town hall meeting on anything is an achievement in its own right this summer, but she's up for re-election a year from now.

Her letter in support of Pacheco reveals that she understood there was a decision between Altamont and Pacheco to be made. Various stakeholders must have leaned on her to endorse their preferred solution, which she did because she owed them one. It never occurred to her that Altamont vs. Pacheco was among the last, not the first, decisions on where the route would go.

In that, she may have reflected the thinking of many of her constituents. However, representation is about leadership and, that requires staying informed. If Mrs. Eshoo had particular interest in rail transportation issues before, she might want to develop one.

menlorail said...

overcrossing is what people envision. The panel failed to address those concerns in a convincing way. Given the cost and difficulty of the tunnel, the so called 'experts' did not address how the grade separation would look and work and they did not assuage the fears of people who see their property values affected.

Eshoo's format was flawed as it did not allow for follow up questions or challenges. So you had to take some of the statements Marshed made like 'we won't take anyone's property' at face value. He sounded a lot like a used car salesman.

The cause of HSR was not helped by the meeting. If anything, the skepticism was increased. Call us all NIMBYs if you want, but when 400-500 people show up to a town meeting on an issue and leave as skeptical as they arrived, that sends a message to the pols and will increase the attention to the project. HSR needs to tell a lot better story than they did last night.

NONIMBYS said...

Per even the PaloAlto online MANY
of these people were nothing more than people that were there to protest the health care issue with her..typical self-centered mob style. Far more than 500 voted YES on Prop1A .Most people are to busy
to go to these things unless your 65 and over and have lots of time on your hands..And looking at the pictures thats jusyt the crowd that was there!!

Anonymous said...

nonimby's - wrong. About 12 people were there with protest signs on healthcare, and about 2 of them stayed. The town coucil chambers were full, they kept far more people outside observing through windows and outdoor piped speakers, than were actually inside. They said they had rented 200 folding chairs which were completley full, the built in benches in the courtyards were full (people sitting back to back), and there were people standing, sitting on lawn chairs, walls etc. There were at least 350 there, and judging by the audience reactions, about 95% against HSR. The only HSR supporters appearted to be Robert, his entourage, and the CHSRA/Caltrain/Caltrans goons walking around with handouts. Oh then there were the 20 or so cops - I guess they thought the 'NIMBYs' were going to attack Diridonand Kopp or something.

Diridon - that was funny. He waltz's in to the courtyard about 30 minutes late, but the cops won't let him in to the packed council chambers. He managed to walk around enough to get in.. He goes to sit up front at the councilmembers benches -AND sits with his BACK TURNED to the audience - the whole time. He was the CHSRA poster boy for disdain and arrogance. Perfect.

Anonymous said...

Menlorail,
It wouldn't matter if 1000 people showed up to a town-hall meeting to protest against HSR.
The fact of the matter is that thousands on the Peninsula and thousands across the State voted IN FAVOR of HSR.
Don't you love Democracy!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I noticed how Diridon faced away from the audience even after arriving late and jumping up to the bench seats. He didn't have anything to contribute, so what was he doing up there? Upon jumping up the bench, he made some fool statement about how he had waiting patiently outside until a seat was available. I would have liked to have taken one of the seats on the bench too, Rod!

CHSRA's Morshed was a sputtering fool that couldn't give a straight answer to the most basic questions.

Mike Scanlon was at least skilled in promotional rhetoric, and Bob Doty at least was constructive in his commentary. Caltrain's boys were doing a much better job than CHSRA's hacks.

Evan Goldin said...

I think the key point we need to nail home is:

"The Peninsula was built on the railroad. It's time to give that railroad an upgrade.:

That's a great, simple point based on facts, and a great argument for this project coming down the corridor.

I was pretty miffed at Eshoo's attitude on the fact that there was a plan before the vote. If there hadn't been, people would have been even more up in arms, saying "We didn't know this would come down the Peninsula when we voted on it!"

She can't complain about people not knowing what they're voting for AND complain that a plan is already in place.

Anonymous said...

Morshed's "performance" wasn't just bad - he LIED!

First he says - there will be minimal takings for the ROW because there is enough space

Then he says - "I don't know of a single property that will be taken" (of course not - you haven't decided anything)

then he went on to say later that tunnels actually require a whole lot of Eminent Domain takings and that people don't realize that

Well - if the alternatives aren't decided yet - and "all options" will be studied - then they have NO basis predicting how much eminent domain will be required!

Morshed gave bad responses - citizens remember those one liners ("I don't know of a single piece of property that needs to be taken") and they remember it - and later, when it proves to be untrue - people can't understand how it wasn't clear.

Please - what a farce. I hope the Palo Alto Teach-In continues to offer the public the opportunity to hear more of this kind of stuff in a format that allows for follow up questions.

lyqwyd said...

"there will be minimal takings for the ROW because there is enough space" - That's true.

Then he says - "I don't know of a single property that will be taken" - true as well, as you mentioned nothing has been decided.

then he went on to say later that tunnels actually require a whole lot of Eminent Domain takings and that people don't realize that - that is also true, to build a tunnel you need more space than to build the equivalent at grade.

So where is the lie? Oh, it's what you actually wrote.

AndyDuncan said...

then they have NO basis predicting how much eminent domain will be required!

They do because they've been studying tunneling for the Anaheim-Fullerton section of the line down in Southern California. A 2.5 mile section that goes through a narrow 50' ROW (narrower or as narrow as the narrowest Peninsula sections).

That line is further along than the peninsula planning, and they found that they are going to need over 10 acres of land at the tunnel ends to handle things like construction staging, earth removal and shoofly tracks. They also found that the cost of putting in an aerial option was the least expensive for the 2.5 mile section ($115million) while the tunnel was the most expensive ($411million).

They decided to continue evaluating both the tunnel and an at-grade option ($170m) with grade separations and ROW takes, but decided against the aerial and cut-and cover options due to community impact.

So they're not just choosing the cheapest option. Also note that the tunnel option will make it much more difficult to grade separate the existing freight/metrolink tracks in the future due to the constrained vertical profile.

That's something that Peninsula residents need to look closely at: if you insist on running the HSR tracks in a tunnel, you might be stuck with at-grade freight and caltrain forever.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 1:43pm -

you may want to read Clem Tillier's excellent posts on Why They Chose The Caltrain Corridor, The Joy Of Tunnels and Threading The San Mateo Narrows for background information on how much width is needed both during and after construction, for a variety of vertical alignment options.

Note in particular the extra width that may be needed for temporary shoofly tracks for Caltrain and UPRR. In many locations those could be installed along frontage roads, in others part or all of a private property would have to be acquired, by eminent domain if need be.

Note that David Spaethling (HNTB's point man in the peninsula section) apparently said 70 feet of width is enough for four tracks above ground, except at stations. Previously, CHSRA had assumed 75 feet would me needed. It's a small change but it reduces the distance along which the corridor is currently too narrow from 2.89 miles to 1.12.

If Caltrain and CHSRA decide that some curves need to be straightened, that figure would go up a little.

If a property owner - residential, commercial or industrial - is notified that partial eminent domain will be exercised against him, he can file a reverse condemnation lawsuit asking the judge to force that to be extended to his entire property. To win, he has to prove that between partial ED, construction nuisance and future operations, the property can no longer reasonably be considered to serve its intended purpose. As usual, what is "reasonable" is a matter of opinion.

Simply having taken a paper loss on the property would probably not be sufficient, as the railroad all of predated the peninsula towns and was never abandoned, never even ceased to operate. Any judge would have to assume that the risk of future construction in the railroad ROW and increases in traffic volume was factored into the transaction price for the property. The principle of caveat emptor (buyer beware) applies.

I wasn't at the town hall meeting, so I don't know the context of Mehdi Morshed's statement regarding ED. Strictly speaking, he's right in that CHSRA has not yet decided there will need to be any ED takings at all. However, unless they accept sections with fewer tracks, stack them 2x2 or bore some deep tunnels, it seems unlikely they'll be able to avoid that outcome.

It would be civil if they admitted as much, but there may be legal reasons why they can't do that just yet. Eminent domain is supposed to be a measure of last resort and they cannot claim that they've exhausted all other possibilities just yet.

Unfortunately, whatever his chops as a civil engineer, Mehdi Morshed appears to be out of his depth when he needs to explain the EIR/EIS process and its legal constraints to a hostile crowd.

AndyDuncan said...

However, unless they accept sections with fewer tracks, stack them 2x2 or bore some deep tunnels, it seems unlikely they'll be able to avoid that outcome.

What I think is most telling about the LA-Anaheim Alternatives Analysis is that the option of digging four tunnels, two for HSR, two for FRA, or putting in a four-track trench, were never considered.

The idea that the Authority is going to pay to put freight/amtrak/metrolink/caltrain lines in a tunnel is incredibly presumptuous. At best I expect the peninsula alternatives analysis to include a tunnel option for the HSR tracks only, leaving the caltrain and FRA lines as is.

I think that will shift debate quite a bit. What will peninsula NIMBYs do when they realize that kicking HSR off the peninsula isn't going to solve the caltrain electrification and grade separation problem?

Robert Cruickshank said...

Agree with menlorail @12:09pm, actually. The format of the event was not one designed to have an in-depth discussion of project design, especially with Eshoo's single-minded focus on answering as many questions as possible, even at the expense of in-depth conversation.

Dominic Spaethling said that such a meeting will happen, and I look forward to it when it does. Plenty of misconceptions exist that need to be done away with, but that can only happen through a more in-depth meeting.

And even then you'll still have NIMBYs whining about this. Because they are very deeply wedded to their belief that everything in Menlo Park (or Atherton or Palo Alto) must remain exactly as it is, and any change is inherently dangerous and bad.

Devil's Advocate said...

I read somewhere (I think it was a European site on HSR) that the distance between High Speed tracks must be at least 4+ mtrs apart (I presume because of the air displacement which could cause problems for two trains traveling in opposite directions). The standard gauge is almost 1.5 mts. Based on these figures you need a ROW of about 22+ mts. (72ft) along the Peninsula in order to have 4 tracks. The question I have is: is there enough room for that along the Caltrain ROW? I work on the Peninsula and some areas seem kind of narrower than that. Seem strange to me that someone here is implying that HSR doesn't need to acquire land through eminent domain because there is already enough room.

lyqwyd said...

@DA

From Clem's Why They Chose the Caltrain Corridor:

"The simple answer: there's a lot more room in the Caltrain corridor than most people realize.

Right of Way Statistics

Average width: 112 ft (34 m)
Percentage 75 ft or wider: 94%
Percentage 80 ft or wider: 88%
Percentage 85 ft or wider: 80%
Percentage 90 ft or wider: 77%
Percentage 95 ft or wider: 70%
Percentage 100 ft or wider: 68%"

So yes, most of the corridor is more than wide enough.

Anonymous said...

Continue insisting that the attractive and saleable options are not possible and guess what reaction you are going to get from Peninsula residents? Move the hsr somewhere else. It's not wanted.

If you have thousands of taxpayers agreeing that the hsr aerial plan is unacceptable and the hsr won't consider the 101 alternative route, their conclusion will tip to the profoundly and committedly negative. Stop at San Jose or go Altamont and terminate in the East Bay.

In other words former supporters are now converted to opponents. That's the price of the Bechtel blitzkrieg. These people aren't rubes; they have seen BART and they know exactly what to expect. And don't say BART is too cheap to compare to the hsr. BART is spending billions upon billions and it remains as ugly and noisy as always. The San Jose extension is as gold-plated as anything the hsr can come up with. So a fair comparison. Same rail hiss, same roar, same vibration. You will be able to see and hear the elevated many blocks away.

Devil's Advocate said...

Well it looks like the width of the ROW is not as insurmountable as I thought. However that doesn't take into consideration the low radius of some of the curves. If you want to straighten those you might need more land than you think. Personally I don't see the problem with a lower speed. Lowering the speed from 125mph to even 90mph would increase the trip time only by less than 10 min. I don't see that you'd lose a lot of passengers because it now takes 2h58m instead of 2h48m to go to LA from SF. Anything under 3h would still be very competitive with air travel.

lyqwyd said...

@DA

Clem's got another post: Top 10 Worst Curves that gives a lot of information about the curves in the Peninsula. I don't think he detailed what would need to be done to straighten them, but he does talk about the amount of the delays caused by them.

menlorail said...

Robert@2:53: People in PA and MP can deal with change. They have two concerns, as Eshoo herself expressed: 1) Concern about a 20' barrier running through their towns; 2) Concern that the property values will be affected. These are legitimate concerns. Those who post on this blog just write these off as NIMBY responses. Well, if that was the prospect in your town, you might have the same worries. HSR has NOT addressed these issues in a convincing manner. They have been arrogant (Diridon, Kopp) or they have been incoherent (Morshed). The resistance will grow stronger until they do.

Rafael said...

@ Anon @ 3:54pm -

I think you will discover the state of California does not revolve around you. Within the financial scope available to CHSRA, solutions that avoid/minimize eminent domain takings and mitigate impacts will be implemented.

It's just that CHSRA isn't Father Christmas, so communities that want e.g. many miles of tunnels need to get creative about funding the difference. While I'm not hopeful that it's enough, the idea of selling air rights above tunnels to developers is certainly creative and worth exploring.

@ Devil's Advocate -

if CHSRA had to cave on line haul time in every hamlet along the way, you'd end up a with a system so slow it could not attract sufficient ridership to turn an operating profit. That's why AB3034 explicitly calls for aggressive non-stop line haul times for a number of city pairs.

That said, there's no legal requirement that such express trains must be feasible at any given time. For example, Caltrain may decide to continue operating its baby bullet service. It could also switch to a mix of locals and HiSpeed trains with cross-platform transfers at selected locations.

Either way, all long-distance HSR trains might have to stop at Millbrae, RWC/PA and SJ during Caltrain's rush hour. Mid-morning to mid-afternoon and in the evenings? Pedal to the metal.

@ lyqwyd -

check out San Bruno Done Right.

If only TJPA would grasp how important curve radii are for throughput, especially in the throats of terminal stations.

Rafael said...

@ menlorail -

just because you can see across the Caltrain corridor today doesn't mean it's not a barrier. It already bisects virtually all peninsula cities into a western and an eastern half with only sporadic connections.

Indeed, in terms of cross traffic capacity, grade separation will unite rather divide. Adding more cross roads or bike paths to a full-height embankment is easy to do up front, much harder later on. Even for split grade separations, additional crossings could be negotiated.

There are also ways to soften the visual impact of embankments with structured surfaces, artwork, vertical gardens etc.

Substituting full-height viaducts (aerials in the jargon) would provide more flexibility and not cost all that much more. The forest of columns could be ugly or pretty, depending on available funds and seismic considerations. Again, plants can help tremendously, especially if reflecting pools are used to illuminate central section during the day. At night, LED lighting could be used.

With aerials, cities would have the flexibility to change cross traffic patterns at any time in the future. In the meantime, the space underneath the tracks could be used for north-south bike paths, playgrounds, cafes, stores, plain old parking, storage - you name it. It's your town. If you don't want grey utilitarian concrete, get creative.

Transparent sound walls made from double glazing aren't cheap but they are effective and their visual impact is much less severe. They're especially valuable wherever tracks remain at grade, where they double as fences. Further noise reductions can be had by placing ballast bags in-between the rails, especially if the concrete sleepers are bolted directly to the concrete deck of an aerial.

Deep bored tunnel tracks for HSR only would be very expensive and leave Caltrain and UPRR at grade, most likely forever. By the time Caltrain reaches its 2025 target of 10 trains per hour each way during rush hour, any remaining grade crossings would become nearly impassable. The horn and bell noise would double.

Four tunnel tracks would be astronomically expensive.

As for home values, I actually do understand the concern. However, it is not a given that the impact would have to be negative. Those within easy walking/biking distance of the nearest station may well rise in value, especially if road congestion and/or gas prices reach nosebleed levels.

mike said...

Based on these figures you need a ROW of about 22+ mts. (72ft) along the Peninsula in order to have 4 tracks

What's being proposed for the Peninsula is not HSR. It's all 125 mph or less. In most European countries this would be considered conventional rail. The fact that HSTs will run on it at conventional speeds is irrelevant for track spacing - it just means they'll be very quiet and smooth.

If anyone on either side ever claims that HSR is being built on the Peninsula, they are incorrect.

Morris Brown said...

A bit more from the UPRR.

http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=13616


Tom Lange, a spokesman for Union Pacific, told the Weekly Thursday that the company is not opposed to the concept of a high-speed rail system. But the proposed high-speed system would not be compatible with Union Pacific's freight trains.

The high-speed rail would allow its passenger trains to reach speeds as high as 220 mph in rural regions, or up to 125 mph when it passes through dense areas such as the Peninsula. The high speeds would create a safety hazard if the two rail services had to share space, Lange said.

"Our right-of-way is not compatible with the high-speed rail," he said.

AndyDuncan said...

Since Morris is only posting the UPRR quote, here's Morshed's take:

Morshed said the rail agency has already been operating under the assumption that it wouldn't be using Union Pacific's right-of-way. The rail agency has been looking at other options, including the use of properties adjacent to Union Pacific's right-of-way, he said.

Darrell said...

If you want to see what Bechtel will build in the way of hsr just look to BART.

There will be no tunnel and the elevated will be totally and unimpeachably "brutalist"


Uh, Anon, BART aerial structures and stations are "brutalist" because that was the style when they were built in the late 1960s.

Anonymous said...

Rafael really? Cuz Morshed said last night that CHSRA would fund everything. everything. tunnels and all.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Anon @6:03 is sadly correct; Morshed did indeed make such a rash promise. He will come to regret it. The CHSRA is in absolutely no position to pay for the tunnel all on its own, not unless the CHSRA is really Caltrain electrification and nothing more.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Either way, all long-distance HSR trains might have to stop at Millbrae, RWC/PA and SJ during Caltrain's rush hour.

Why? It's never going to be the Tokaido Corridor, it's never going to be the Northeast Corridor for that matter. HSR leaves closely followed by a Caltrain express of some sort. By the time the Caltrain express gets halfway up or down the Peninsula the next HSR train leaves....... There's never going to be demand for more than one or two super expresses - assuming the super express commands a premium fare. They can schedule around them.

mike said...

The CHSRA is in absolutely no position to pay for the tunnel all on its own, not unless the CHSRA is really Caltrain electrification and nothing more.

I'm not sure what else CHSRA could say. If they said, "We may not pay for a tunnel (even if we choose it in the EIR)," then they are explicitly stating a bias against the tunnel option.

They need to do a thorough evaluation of all options and make a decision based on the merits. They said cost would be the last factor considered. They're likely being truthful. But cost may be where the biggest differences emerge between the different options. Just because it's the last factor doesn't mean it won't be the deciding factor.

Suppose they ultimately do not choose the tunnel alignment. Then his statement only becomes relevant if Palo Alto steps up and volunteers to pay the cost difference for trenching or tunneling in Palo Alto city limits. Would CHSRA refuse that offer simply because Morshed once said they'd be the only ones paying for whatever got built? I doubt it.

Anyway, very informative post overall Robert. Sadly, Eshoo is exactly what I expected, which is a savvy politician. Your only job as a politician at any of these functions is to simply agree with everything your constituents say. I've witnessed it time and time again. Of course she told all the critics she wants to review the whole HSR plan and simultaneously told you that she supports HSR. I'd bet good money that in reality she has no intention of doing anything substantial either way (nor could she do much if she wanted to...it's ultimately a state matter, she spends much of her time in Washington, and she's not even on any relevant committees in Congress).

Clem said...

Transparent sound walls made from double glazing

Can you point to a single example, anywhere in the world, where glass sound walls shield neighborhoods from 125 mph trains? Glass is not a good sound absorber.

lyqwyd said...

Does anybody have the exact quote from Morshed regarding CHSRA paying for tunnels? The wording really makes a difference.

CHSRA is currently planning a number of tunnels, perhaps all he meant is that those tunnels will be paid for by CHSRA, he could have on the other hand made a major error and promised to pay for all tunnels anybody requests, it really depends on the wording and how it is interpreted. My guess is he meant the first, but promised the second, it sounds like he should no longer be allowed to speak for CHSRA, no matter what his role is.

On a more positive note, here's another quote from Morshed:

"The assessment of our lawyers, is that the court decision is a minor issue and that it's not going to impact our schedule, that we can continue our work and not it's going to have an impact on our project-level work or our federal funding request."

Rafael said...

@ Clem -

I can't give you an example where glass sound walls are used for high speed rail because other countries never allowed encroachment of high-end residential property anywhere near their railroad ROW in the first place. Ergo, their high speed lines feature either no sound walls or cheap concrete one.

However, here is an example of a glass sound wall next to a freeway in the Czech republic. In this case, they appear to have used thick single panes with internal wire mesh. The mass of those panes is not as large as those of a typical concrete wall, but nearby residents presumably placed a higher value on minimizing the visual impact than they did on maximizing the soundproofing.

What I was talking about was double glazing, which relies on a vacuum between two thin panes of glass to achieve both thermal and sound insulation. Large format units would provide both excellent soundproofing and allow light to shine through.

Conveniently, the vacuum also makes such windows extremely difficult to break except with a sharp object, especially if the corners are rounded off. Self-cleaning coatings would be a good idea, as would somewhat elastic mounts to improve seismic resilience.

In the context of noise mitigation projects, double (and triple) glazing is normally only ever applied to selected buildings. In certain sections of the SF peninsula, the number of buildings directly abutting the railroad ROW is unusually large, so it may make more sense to apply the treatment as a sound wall instead.

If that ends up making the difference between running HSR tracks at or above grade and having to go underground, they would be a bargain even at several million dollars/mile.

Anonymous said...

"I can't give you an example where glass sound walls are used for high speed rail because other countries never allowed encroachment of high-end residential property anywhere near their railroad ROW in the first place. Ergo, their high speed lines feature either no sound walls or cheap concrete one."

This is the first honest thing I've heard from HSR proponents, I think ever. Finally some truth.

The reality is CHSRA is shoving a high speed train through where it has no business being shoved, and through where no other country has dared shove one yet.

lyqwyd said...

Anon, apparently you've never read anything about HSR before, here's some other honest things:

HSR is good for the environment - less greenhouse gases since it uses renewable energy
HSR is good for California - more options in transit, highly cost effective, keeps CA from having to spend money on expanding highways
HSR is good for the Peninsula - better connects the east and west sides of the cities and reduces noise through grade separation

Bay Area Resident said...

this blog is too much. Come on people.

The reason Eshoo thought that the route was up for grabs when 1A passed is because (drum roll) That was the way it was worded. deliberately. In the proposition. It was a deceptive scam because if the SF peninsula had known that this project was on the caltrain tracks, it wouldn't have passed. Period.

Anonymous said...

There is no way this elevated scheme can be mitigated. All elevateds are inherently "brutalist","unless they are visually set off at considerable distances, like bridges. At least BART is honest about it; it dosn't even try to play the mitigatation nonsense game. BART trains are so ugly that fully-clad wraparound advertising would be an aesthetic improvement. I light-heartedly suggest adverts for Trojans or Viagra. Would help to defray those ATU 100k+ compensation packages.

I guess the Peninsula people will need to promulgate "teaparties" to get heard in the face of all the contractor payola.

Bay Area Resident said...

If Morshed said tunnels take more emminent domain takings than elevateds then he is an idiot (but we knew that). According to the Diridon committees in San Jose, they are going to use "the mole" for tunnelling and its an entirely underground undertaking with far less impact than something above ground.

lyqwyd said...

@BAR

you are right, we tricked you. In the words of Nelson:

"HA HA!"

Anonymous said...

Anon 951,
The railroad has been running the spine of the Peninsula for over a hundred fricken years!
HSR and electrified Caltrain are improvements to this railroad! Stop acting as if a rail line is falling out of the sky right on top of some pristine utopia!
Idiots!

lyqwyd said...

@BAR

again your right, they could just do a two track tunnel and leave caltrain and freight as-is. It would still cost PA an arm and a leg, but at least you would still have grade crossings and horns!

Anonymous said...

BAR,
You're the one that's to much. Now, out of desperation, you're making shit up to fit your Martian-view!
How many times must it be stated that the route was known way before Nov 08!
Oh well...HA HA!

Adirondacker12800 said...

other countries never allowed encroachment of high-end residential property anywhere near their railroad ROW in the first place

The Peninsula is a string of railroad 'burbs, just like railroad suburbs all over the world. People pay premium prices to be near the tracks, it's where the stations are.

jim said...

So which is the better choice for a station. PA or RWC?
PA has that nice development plan but RWC could do the same thing. Of course if the the station is in Pa it means the trains will be slowing down to stop there so they won't even be running at 125, they'll be running between 0-60.

matt said...

There is no way this elevated scheme can be mitigated. All elevateds are inherently "brutalist","unless they are visually set off at considerable distances, like bridges. At least BART is honest about it; it dosn't even try to play the mitigatation nonsense game. BART trains are so ugly that fully-clad wraparound advertising would be an aesthetic improvement. I light-heartedly suggest adverts for Trojans or Viagra. Would help to defray those ATU 100k+ compensation packages.

I guess the Peninsula people will need to promulgate "teaparties" to get heard in the face of all the contractor payola.

August 27, 2009 9:59 PM
Blogger Bay Area Resident said...

If Morshed said tunnels take more emminent domain takings than elevateds then he is an idiot (but we knew that). According to the Diridon committees in San Jose, they are going to use "the mole" for tunnelling and its an entirely underground undertaking with far less impact than something above ground.


Sorry dude, but you are the idiot. Most of the current ROW is sufficient for four tracks. The tunnel will require some permament takings at both portals, as well large temporary takings for the TBM staging areas.

But that explanation won't fulfill your fantasies of a vast HSR conspiracy.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:51pm -

of course allowing railroads to languish for so long and paving over vast tracts of land with freeway lanes is ultimately why it's now so difficult to implement HSR. That much is patently obvious to everyone, not stating it before wasn't some diabolical conspiracy.

If you start with the twin premises that the HSR line needs to terminate in San Francisco and that a new bay crossing is out of the question, then the Caltrain corridor is basically the only place you can realistically put the tracks - in spite of the issues that raises for the communities in-between. This isn't news, CHSRA picked this corridor in 2005.

There was plenty of discussion over the past few years about the new bay crossing (bridge/tunnel at Dumbarton, 2nd transbay tube) but the assumption that trains would need to reach SF at all was never seriously challenged, even though CHSRA did analyze alternatives such as SJ+Oakland only.

SF peninsula towns did not get organized until way too late in the process, so now they're resorting to litigation that may well delay the project and jack up costs for state and federal taxpayers, but won't stop it. Big projects like this have a lot of inertia, they take a lot of time to pick up speed. But once they do, it's also very difficult to slow them down again or get them to change course, never mind bring them to a halt.

Besides, as Rob Doty (Caltrain chief engineer and HSR liason) pointed out at the town hall meeting, Caltrain needs to electrify and expand or it will go out of business before long. Full grade separation would not be absolutely necessary for Caltrain alone, but doubling the number of trains without it would virtually shut down any remaining cross roads during rush hour.

It is a fiction to believe that no project means no change. Essentially, either you accept Caltrain + HSR on fully elevated tracks or before long, there won't be any passenger or freight rail service at all in the peninsula - putting a lot more cars and trucks on the already congested roads.

Rafael said...

@ BAR -

tunneling does mean greater land takings overall, because tunnels have to be constructed.

Two tunnel tracks for HSR only would keep Caltrain and UPRR at grade: bells, horns and traffic jams forever.

Four-track subway tunnels require thick walls and thick center columns in addition to the space for the tracks. Additional space is needed for temporary shoofly tracks so Caltrain and UPRR can keep operating during the construction period.

Boring tunnels through relatively soft and wet sedimentary rock also has footprint issues. For starters, there are large construction sites at both portals for removing the spoil, the bentonite slurry plant needed to stabilize the cutting face and, temporary storage of the pre-fabricated ring segments needed to stabilize the tunnel behind the cutting face. You may not care about all that as long as its happening "somewhere else" but CHSRA doesn't have that luxury.

Boring outside the ROW is possible once the bores are deep enough. By default, you'd need a single two-track bore for Caltrain+UPRR and two individual bores for HSR (to avoid aerodynamic instability at high speed). There needs to be quite a bit of space in-between these three tubes, so there are land impacts between the tunnel portals and the points at which the tunnels are deep enough. Given that UPRR trains are gradient-challenged, those transitions would be rather long. A further complication is that Caltrain and UPRR need to keep operating during construction, so at least one active track through or around the construction site at each portal would be required.

A single bore large enough to accommodate two levels of two tracks each would be much, much more expensive.

In addition, boring tunnels underneath active railroad tracks is much tricker than doing it under a road. Even minimal subsidence could render the tracks too dangerous to use. Subsidence under nearby frontage roads or buildings could also be a disaster. Subsidence risk depends on the geology, it's worst if there are pockets of soft mud or water that the TBM could strike. This isn't a ROW width issue per se, but it is a risk that would have to be quantified and managed.

Clem said...

It was a deceptive scam

Or how about, since the route choice was being litigated, they included both Pacheco and Altamont in Prop 1A in order to cover all their bases?

All this "Altamont overlay" stuff is basic risk mitigation. After the risk goes away, expect the Altamont stuff to be retired.

mike said...

The reality is CHSRA is shoving a high speed train through where it has no business being shoved

Rafael said that other countries would never have allowed development abutting the Caltrain ROW anyway, and you agreed with him. By your own admission, any undesirable interactions here are the fault of the Peninsula towns and have nothing to do with the CHSRA.

There is no way this elevated scheme can be mitigated.

Fortunately the court disagrees with you, so it's no longer relevant what any of us thinks on that particular issue.

Observer said...

"If you start with the twin premises that the HSR line needs to terminate in San Francisco and that a new bay crossing is out of the question"

a) You can't start with either of these premises.

There's not a reason in the world that HSR can't terminite at SFO, in SJ or in Oakland - which would solve a HECK of a lot of problems. Nor is there a reason that a new bay crossing is out of the question...

The first thing that's needed is adequate and complete cost comparisons between all the options - which we don't yet have. For example, CHSRA waved away the 101 route due to high costs of overpasses - really? HIgh cost compared only to incomplete analyis on the Peninsula caltrain row - invalid. They ruled out high cost of double track Dumbarton crossing due to high cost - again, really? High cost compared to incomplete analysis on teh Peninsula caltrain row - Invalid!

They need to go back and revisit their starting assumptions.

BTW don't worry that measure 1A states Transbay terminal - measure 1A is invalide now too. Lets go back to the drawing board and do it right, shall we?

But here we get to the REAL truth of the matter:
"CHSRA picked this corridor in 2005" EXACTLY! THANK YOU.

That's interesting because they CLAIM they didn't approve their EIR until 2008. Again, now we're getting to the TRUTH, aren't we.

observer said...

Mike - right. I don't care if human development in and around the Peninsula caltrain row is the 'fault' of father christmas, Elija, or the tooth fairy. WHY its here, or who got here first is completely irrelevent. Fact remains, its here, its too close to the row and high speed trains have no business getting shoved through this kind of development. You can't reverse time -damage done, and the trains are NOT going through here.

Take a look at the reality in these towns - what are they doing to manage traffic problems in the neighborhoods - they're SLOWING TRAFFIC DOWN - by design! Thats right, they're not making it faster and easier to move traffic through, they are reducing major thorough fares to one lane from two , they are widening sidewalks and bike lands, and adding more signals (see Charleston and Oregon).

You think all these 'threats' about HSR leaving and taking their funding with them actually scares anyone on the Peninsula? Hilarious.

Here's how its REALLY going to go down. CHSRA will find it so difficult and expensive to pursue the caltrain route that they'll leave. (This of course, they've been warned about repeatedly for more than a year now). Caltrain will piss and moan and raise fares. People will still take the Caltrain. And in about 3 years someone with the best interests of the Peninsula in mind will come along with a new plan for Caltrain upgrade - like a light rail solution, that will be quieter, cleaner, safer, and SLOWER and very very convenient to get from SF to SJ and points in between. IN the meantime, we'll all buy electric cars, convert 50% of all roadways to small commuter vehicle lanes, and Those who want a novelty ride to disneyland will go to the eastbay to catch an hsr ride once or twice in their lifetimes. And we all live happily every after. The End.

lyqwyd said...

Observer said:

"If you start with the twin premises that the HSR line needs to terminate in San Francisco and that a new bay crossing is out of the question"

a) You can't start with either of these premises.


Wrong, you can because it's law. Prop 1A says LA to SF. The court said Dumbarton, 101, & 280 were all discarded for legitemate reasons (AKA too expensive).

Clem said...

SLOWER and very very convenient to get from SF to SJ

Funny!

AndyDuncan said...

Wrong, you can because it's law. Prop 1A says LA to SF. The court said Dumbarton, 101, & 280 were all discarded for legitemate reasons (AKA too expensive).

It's going to be incredibly difficult to get another case filed with regards to the routing choice. Any sane judge is going to look at this decision and throw out challenges regarding routing unless those challenges can bring up new information, like some sort of Enron-like phone call between Kopp and Diridon talking about how they're going to screw the grandmas on the Peninsula.

Barring that, it's going down the Peninsula. People along the route need to start focusing their efforts on making sure that it's done in a way that minimizes the impact on the region and provides the best solution for future growth.

Save your anger for the Alternatives Analysis, I'm sure you're going to find something in there to get pissed about.

Observer said...

Andyduncan "new information" - You mean like invalidated EIR that has invalidated measure 1A? Or you mean like chsra failing to account for the purchse or lease of row from UPRR - thereby having submitted garbage operating financials which, when counted, will not result in a fully unsubsidized system? You mean like chsra failing to properly account for land use impacts (and mitigations) properly where uprr operates, which is in approximately 50% of the 'prefered' route - which all of a sudden makes the alternatives CHEAP by comparison.

Besides, I'm not talking about forcing them in court - I'm talking about CHSRA suddenly having a face saving reason now to voluntarily reopen the alternatives for consideration, because pacheco becomes WAY too expensive, once they properly account for all costs.

Iqy - its the law. The law is invalid now that the eir is garbage. That's the next legal challenge.

Clem - convenience is all relative isn't it? In that scenario, what are you comparing it to? (It a local only commute, no longer trying to look like an alternative to air travel, cheap, easy access, easier and faster than the auto commute, walkable on both ends, no baggage messiness, no need to build long term parking, rental car mega travel hub centers, no need to wholesale remodel towns, keeping within two track - so no need to demolish neighbors, mega sound wall structures, cutting down trees, etc etc etc. Sounds pretty convenient to me - and yuo still get to read the paper and save the environment on your 45 minute trip into the city.

mike said...

In about 3 years someone with the best interests of the Peninsula in mind will come along with a new plan for Caltrain upgrade - like a light rail solution....we'll all buy electric cars, convert 50% of all roadways to small commuter vehicle lanes

Interesting vision. I will bet you any amount of money that in the year 2020: (a) Caltrain will not be running LRVs (light rail vehicles) and (b) 101 will not contain four lanes dedicated to "small [electric] commuter vehicles" and four lanes dedicated to all other vehicles. Seriously, any amount of money.

Save your anger for the Alternatives Analysis, I'm sure you're going to find something in there to get pissed about.

QFT.

Andrew Bogan said...

2) Concern that the property values will be affected.

Why do HSR opponents insist on a uniform assumption that property values will fall if HSR is built on the Peninsula? Every major study of HSR in Asia and Europe has shown the opposite effect: average property values increase (significantly) in cities with HSR stations. Obviously, a few properties may be negatively impacted (probably very few), but the overall effect on Peninsula real estate values is almost certain to be strongly positive based on more than 4 decades of data across half a dozen countries.

What would happen to Peninsula property values if Interstate 280 or SFO were permanently closed? Efficient transportation (by car, rail, or air) is valuable and that value is reflected in property prices.

AndyDuncan said...

You mean like invalidated EIR that has invalidated measure 1A?

The EIR has not been invalidated, even if it had, it wouldn't invalidate 1A. Until the judge renders a decision on remediation, it's all speculation, but there's nothing to indicate that the whole EIR is going to get rejected due to either the UPRR ROW issue or the typo about noise.

which is in approximately 50% of the 'prefered' route - which all of a sudden makes the alternatives CHEAP by comparison.

It's also approximately 50% of the 'alternate' route. So you save nothing be re-evaluating Altamont, and all the other problems are still there (like a bridge through a protected wetland) and the peninsula north of dunbarton.

because pacheco becomes WAY too expensive, once they properly account for all costs.

Running along the foothills and skipping the gilroy station would actually be cheaper and faster (it was in fact one of the original studied routes), so they could do that though it would reduce ridership. In a worst case scenario to keep the Gilroy station and they are somehow unable to buy the farmland next to the UPRR ROW through the area, they'll have to extend the viaduct that is already planned through the the towns of Gilroy and Morgan Hill, which would require easements but not straight ROW takes.

I'm talking about CHSRA suddenly having a face saving reason now to voluntarily reopen the alternatives for consideration

There's nothing in this ruling to support that. In fact, the ruling supports the Pacheco alignment on every single one of the counts where the judge ruled for CAHSR, and the ones where the judge ruled against CAHSR would still be applicable to an Altamont alignment.

Seriously, save your breath for the fight you have in front of you. This one's over. It's going down the Caltrain ROW

Bay Area Resident said...

matt and all,
So in other words you are not disputing that they will use the MOLE, which leaves the terrain above the tunnel intact except for the portals into it- but your claim is that with an above ground birm you don't even need the 2 portals? LOL!

The point is that if you listen to Morshed he makes it sound like they are going to do a cut and cover tunnel. Thats what most audience members are thinking when he says tunneling requires emminent domain. Not portal holes for the mole. As far as the residual takings necessary to build the thing, those are more necessary with an above ground solution because you need to deal with shoo fly tracks and all of that, construction work areas adjacent to 70ft ROWs that barely can fit the tracks, there is no place to build them. So tunneling is a far less invasive emminent domain approach, obviously, despite the takings at the 2 mole portals.

lyqwyd said...

No Observer, it's still the law. Prop 1A requires SF as the terminus, this ruling has no change.

The ruling confirmed that a bay crossing was dropped as being too expensive and environmentally hazardous.

If you think the ruling is going to result in a different alignment, or even a serious delay, be prepared for an unpleasant surprise.

lyqwyd said...

@BAR

we don't really care if or how a tunnel is created through PA, we are just trying to prepare you for some of the risks involved, it's not quite as simple as you believe.

Boring a tunnel is very expensive, if you want that, get ready for your property/ sales taxes to go up a lot. And your house might fall into a sinkhole during, or after, construction.

If it's a cut and cover trench it requires greater width than an at, or above, grade solution. It would also take longer to complete, get ready for lots of construction noise.

If PA still wants a tunnel, you guys can pay for it, we don't mind.

N. Dienz said...

@ BAR

People at Caltrain have told me that a tunnel will probably be cut-and-cover, requiring additional eminent domain to purchase new right-of-ways for Caltrain while the tunnel is being excavated.

As a geotechnical engineer who has worked on several lawsuits, I can tell trackside homeowners that a tunnel (especially a bored tunnel in these soil conditions) poses a much greater danger of impacting your home value than an above-ground solution. I have seen several cases where major structural problems have resulted from minor subsidence problems, especially in private homes.

If I lived next to the tracks, the last thing I would want is a tunnel.