Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fear and Loathing in San Jose (Revisited)

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

by Rafael

Heads up #1: The Sep 12 teach-in on high speed rail organized by the Peninsula Cities Consortium has been moved to a new location due to high demand. The event is free, but anyone wishing to attend must now register at the above web site due to limited capacity. (h/t Morris Brown)

Heads up #2: The TJPA as about to hold its monthly meeting for the Citizens Advisory Committee. The agenda includes updates on ARRA funding as well as the design of the DTX tunnel and throat. The meeting is open to the general public, but if you're not a member of the CAC and plan to attend, it might be a good idea to call the TJPA at 415.597.4620 (or email to check if there will be room for you. Lobbyists may have to register with the city of SF first.

Date: Tue Sep 8
Time: 3:30pm - 7:30pm
Location: TJPA offices, 201 Mission Street (at Beale), Suite 2100, San Francisco, CA, in the Large Conference Room

In my recent post Fear and Loathing in San Jose, I suggested that one alternative to the UPRR/Monterey Hwy corridor would be to cut over to the available 101 median via the also available 280 median. At the time, I thought an underground station and tunnel to east of the 87/280 interchange would be the only possibility.

On closer examination, I now believe a variation of this alignment might just barely be possible above ground, drastically reducing the cost while also avoiding south San Jose neighborhoods entirely. The station would still be at an angle to both Caltrain and BART, but located further north than before. Its supports would have to be positioned such that they don't interfere with the future BART tracks, which will wrap around the HP Pavilion underground en route to the future station and maintenance yard in Santa Clara. They must also avoid conflicts with the underground VTA light rail tracks. That's going to be tight. My drawing reserves about 80 feet of width for the station, that's for two tracks plus extra-generous island or side platform(s). There is no need for more than two HSR tracks at San Jose Diridon.

View SJ Diridon: HSR above ground, south via 280/101 in a larger map

The alignment would parallel UPRR's via an aerial above Montgomery St. (with double glazing sound walls) and veer east onto I-280 at the Auzerais Ave intersection. It would reach that median just west of the 87/280 interchange via a tight curve (~1000 ft radius). There is ~1600ft of run length between the Bird Ave westbound off-ramp (which trains must fly over) and the overpass from 280 east onto 87 north (which trains should pass under). At 3.5% gradient, that distance may be just enough to achieve the required elevation change of ~50 feet, factoring in the need for vertical transition curves at either end.

The curve at the 101/280 interchange is just as tight and just as gnarly. Trains would have to pass under the tall southbound overpass turnoff from 680 south onto 101 south and then immediately climb at 3.5% so they can pass over Story Rd. Again, I'm threading the needle here.

In both cases, the small curve radius coupled with the steep gradient means the achievable speeds will be quite low: assuming 5" track cant plus 7" cant deficiency, the maximum permissible speed on a curve with 1000ft radius is just 55mph. Note that current FRA rules limit track cant to just 3" but that's based on the assumption the track will be used for heavy freight trains, which is not the case here.

Since most trains will be stopping at SJ Diridon anyhow, that's primarily an issue for the SF-LA non-stop line haul time: combined with the additional 2 miles, this alignment would add 2-3 minutes. The exact penalty depends on technically feasible speeds in the 101 median vs. politically feasible ones in a ROW in the UPRR/Monterey Hwy corridor. There are ways to compensate for the penalty, e.g. straighten some curves further north. AB3034 requires CHSRA to deliver an SF-LA line haul time of 2 hours 40 minutes, which is already quite aggressive.

In south Gilroy, the least disruptive solution would be to follow 101 until it's no longer designated a freeway and then use an aerial to cut across farmland over the UPRR central coast line, twice across hwy 25 and finally across the UPPR spur to Hollister before descending back to grade following the original alignment to Pacheco Pass.

View SJ Diridon: HSR above ground, south via 280/101 in a larger map

Note: CHSRA's alignment for cost estimation purposes included a trench plus tunnel under the Caltrain tracks between San Tomas Expressway in Santa Clara and Julian St. in San Jose. I've shortened that to Taylor St. by swiping the westernmost CEMOF tracks and running at grade there. That's cheeky but Caltrain can almost certainly make do without those tracks. Bellarmine College Prep High School should not be impacted by the change.

In terms of overall cost for SJ - Gilroy, this revised alignment via I-280 and US-101 might actually be cheaper than the one CHSRA has proposed. It avoids running through numerous San Jose neighborhoods, does not rely on purchasing ROW from UPRR, avoids five grade crossings between Diridon station and Bernal Ave, avoids the existing overpass at San Carlos St. and, it avoids many additional grade crossings south of San Jose as well as aerials through the downtown areas of Morgan Hill and Gilroy and that tunnel section under CEMOF. Plus, there won't be any room for a "Grand Central of the West" station with numerous platform tracks. Two with generous platforms will do just fine, it's a through station not a terminal.


Anonymous said...

(Posted on previous strand but very relevant here)

They were planning on 180 mph for SJ to Gilroy stretch. The travel time for a train from leaving SJ to LEAVING Gilroy is only 15 minutes, a la the schedule presented in last month's workshop. With dwell times, this is about a 13 minute travel time, consistent with going really fast for much of the 35ish mile stretch.

Whether or not 180mph would have truly flown once the neighbors started to comprehend how fast this is....I cannot say.

101 is actually quite curvy, which dramatically lowers the speed the train can go. This is why it wasn't chosen in the first place.

They have only 2 minutes to spare in the entire system. 101 will put them over their official time limit and they will have to find time elsewhere.

You asked who owns the land between the MH and the ROW. There are maps out there that are publicly available that I have seen that show the ownership. The problem is that they are not superimposed on a satellite image so it is difficult to know where one man's land starts and the other ends. Assume that UP owns 60 feet. Whatever is left over is owned by the state or the cities.

If you are ambitious, you can call Caltrain and ask them for ROW maps. It is possible they have them.

You can also call HSRA. Presumably they have them for their planning purposes and they should be public documents.

AndyDuncan said...

@Anon, actually the run simulations from the August board meeting show the trains hitting full speed (350kph/217mph) between Pacheco and SJ.

Perhaps they've already decided they're going to need to run the trains on a different route, one that allows them to run at that speed.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 8:11am -

thx for the information. Clem Tillier's has published detailed ROW maps for most of the Caltrain route, but the sections for mile posts 52 to 77 are unfortunately not there. Some bits in Gilroy look like they're just ~50 feet wide, which would be enough if UPRR were prepared to permit track stacking.

Btw, I believe Acela Express passes through some stations on the NEC at 135-150mph. Even higher speeds are common for TGVs and ICEs through secondary stations like Haute Picardie and Montabaur, but those are at grade in the middle of nowhere. CHSRA is proposing elevated alignments through Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Noise is going to be an issue, even with sound walls and ballast bags on the tracks.

As for the 101 median, yes, it has some curves. Like those on a beautiful woman, you have to slow down a little to fully appreciate them ;^)

Worst case, there are always tilt trains like the Fastech 360. That development platform may not have met JR East's extremely ambitious targets for noise and raking distance, but it might do just nicely for California. It did reach the target cruise speed of 224mph. Ideally, though, there would be no need for active tilt stuff, it's expensive to maintain.

CHSRA did shoot itself in the foot a bit with the ultra-tight line haul targets.

Anonymous said...


The point is that 101's many small curves will have significant constraints on speeds in that area. I don't know how slow (Clem?) but not 180 (which is what they told neighbors) and definitely not 217. You could lose the entire time advantage escribed to Pacheco.

AndyDuncan said...

@anon: agreed, I was surprised at the run simulations, actually. I'm not sure how they plan on running at full speed through there.

jim said...

Theres also about 6 mile stretch between metcalf and burnett where they could leave the 101 row through the blank hills just a smidge to the east and cut and fill a level straight line. where they could hit 220 for a moment out of gilroy northboudn and shave a minute or two off?

Anonymous said...

I don't know why you all are so worried about the run times. to date AB-3034 has been violated by other provisions -- why can't they just ignore this one?

For sure you will have lawsuits down that way if you think those cities and towns are going to put up with the noise from 200 MPH trains roaring through.

I presume everyone agrees an EIR for this section will have to be done and that this will mean a considerable delay (loss of stimulus funds for this segment?)

Anonymous said...

The likelihood of lower speeds overall in urban and suburban areas than was envisioned highlights the Grapevine's advantages.

The selection of the Tehachapis is a mistake that ranks up there with BART's Indian broad gauge. The broad gauge scheme should have and could have been thrown before construction began. Now we have to live with the consequences of this error. The CHSRA should have the energy to alter the plan, no matter how many egos are bruised

morris brown said...

Kurt Pringle responded to the very negative article published in the Contra Consta times.

he writes:

As the recently elected chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority, I am committed to making sure that this high-speed train system is built efficiently and responsibly and that includes ensuring that all communities, from Contra Costa County that all communities, from Contra Costa County to Fresno and San Diego, are intimately involved in our planning, our finances, our construction, and ultimately, the operation of this critically important project.

The previous posting in the blog by Rafael noted that Contra Costa County (population over 1 million) is really hardly served at all.

The decision to come down the Peninsula rather than the east bay, really leaves out Contra Costa County as well as Oakland. It is just one of the very major flaws in the system as planned.

Just how is Pringle going to serve the residents of Contra Costa County?

jim said...

For one, they voted for it knowing full well that hsr wouldn't serve central contra costa directly.

as for travel times to LA via palmdale, all chsr has to do is run a couple of true la-sf express trains a day.

AndyDuncan said...

as for travel times to LA via palmdale, all chsr has to do is run a couple of true la-sf express trains a day.

As far as I can tell, the run simulations that get them the 2:38 LA-SF express trip time appear to be the ones that run full speed through gilroy.

Morris Brown said...

Just released information for the upcoming "teach-in" being sponsored by the Peninsula Cities Consortium.

Note the new location and now released details on the event.

Saturday, September 12, 2009 from 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM (PT)

AndyDuncan said...

Just how is Pringle going to serve the residents of Contra Costa County?

I imagine by connecting a High Speed Rail system to the metro line that currently has seven stations in their county.

34 minutes from Walnut Creek to the Transbay Terminal. How is that not "serving" residents of CoCoCo?

AndyDuncan said...

seven stations in their county.

Sorry, ten stations, I always forget that Richmond and El Cerrito are CCC.

jim said...

is that 2:38 express as in, sf-la not stopping in sfo, sjc, or fno?

jim said...

I still think they should run out of sf every 15 minutes with full express on the hour, limited on the half hour, and locals at :14 and :45.

AndyDuncan said...

is that 2:38 express as in, sf-la not stopping in sfo, sjc, or fno?

Yes, true express with no stops between SF and LA.

I don't have a document saying that that time is dependent on them running 200+mph through gilroy. All I have is the presentation where they showed the run simulation and then showed the timetable. They might have margin baked into that, or they might not.

jim said...

one thing to keep in mind with the competitiveness of these travel times is that for instance, the sf-la speed at 2:38 is still faster than the comparable flight time once you figure in the convenience and when you use shorter city pairs the time is further reduced both because the total distance is smaller and the station locations are even more convenient than the nearest airport.

EVen the trip from walnut creek to downtown sf via bart is faster than the bart trip from walnut creek to coliseum with the airbart bus to oak.

Gilroy give all of south santa clara co/santacruz co /monterey co. and that other one, closer access than mineta.

Once you start talking about central valley travel times and convenience via hsr you blow air out of the water.... or air...

Essentially HSR for the state is analogous to BART for the bay. A frequent, convenient, fast, step on step off system that will allow one to step on at Riverside and go to class in Palo Alto as easily as one might step on at Glen Park and go to Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton.

The majority of the trips that will be taken will probably be in the 1.5-2 hour range.

mike said...

@Andy, Anon

actually the run simulations from the August board meeting show the trains hitting full speed (350kph/217mph) between Pacheco and SJ.

The latest published run simulations (which Andy references) imply running speeds of 180+ mph from Pacheco to Coyote. MAS drops to conventional rail speeds (i.e. 125 mph or less) for all points north of Coyote.

Whether 180+ mph is realistic south of Coyote largely depends on whether they go through downtown Gilroy, IMO. If they avoid downtown Gilroy, it shouldn't be too problematic. The only tight area is Morgan Hill, but it's surprisingly sparse and largely non-residential near the UP ROW. They should definitely install some serious soundwalls and landscaping. If they go through downtown Gilroy, however, things get much more difficult for high speed (180-220 mph) operation.

Just how is Pringle going to serve the residents of Contra Costa County?

Oh Morris. Your professed concern for the mobility of CoCo County residents would be quite touching if it were not so transparently insincere!

At any rate, as Andy points out, BART will provide the main connection. From any Contra Costa BART station, there is faster and more frequent service to Montgomery St than there is to OAK or SFO.

Still, Rafael's idea for a spur from Stockton to Pittsburg is not necessarily a bad one.

jim said...

they can make sure central coco is served by using some of the hsr funds to build a station on the san joaquin row at 680/marina vista near the benicia bridge giving the whole region easy freeway acces a la route 128 station in mass then increasing sj speeds to 110 to stockton hsr in less than 30 minutes. which would also give east county service to stockton hsr in 15 mintues

Anonymous said...

such proposals about just letting contra Costa residents get to HSR via Auto and 15 min or so trips, applies everywhere, doesn't.

Why not stop in San Jose, take a bullet train in SF or CalTrain regular service elsewhere along the peninsula.

jim said...

because san francisco merits an hsr station .

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 11:37am -

an EIR is still in progress for the entire project. It had moved from program to project level, but the recent ruling on Atherton vs. CHSRA means the program EIR will have to be amended. What shape that will take depends on remedial actions to be prescribed by the judge.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

Matinez Amtrak is very close to 680 anyhow. Upgrading to 110mph speed would be nice but could it even be done on the single-track alignments UPRR and BNSF maintain east of the Benicia bridge? What's the point of a high speed limit if you have to wait for an oncoming train?

Double tracking doesn't look feasible, e.g. at near the waterfront station in Antioch.

The other issue is that official CHSRA plans still call for an approach into Stockton via the UPRR, not the BNSF ROW. The HSR station there will be at Cabral St. (SKT) not San Joaquin St. (SKN). Unless something changes, Amtrak SJ customers out of Oakland will not be able to transfer to HSR in Stockton.

Rafael said...

@ mike -

I didn't suggest an HSR spur to Pittsburg. I suggested one to North Concord, ideally even downtown Concord, by shortening the BART line and re-gauging its tracks for eBART and HSR to share.

Rafael said...

@ AndyDuncan -

"34 minutes from Walnut Creek to the Transbay Terminal."

The nearest BART stop to the TTC will be Embarcadero. Including platform lengths, that's a two-block walk. Not the end of the world, but it's not an intermodal connection. TJPA is looking into options for an underground pedestrian passage linking BART/SF Muni to the TTC, perhaps equipped with moving walkways to make the transfer less annoying.

If the DTX tunnel were to stay under 2nd Street, split into multiple levels and terminate at Market St., there would be an intermodal station with Montgomery BART/SF Muni and the future Geary BRT. The TTC building could be connected via a pedestrian passage/short people mover under Minna St.

However, that's not what TJPA chose to do. Instead, they interpreted SF voter intent regarding "everything under one roof" very literally. In the process, most of the East Bay got shafted.

jim said...

RAfael. much of that row is already double tracked and is wide enough for two and in some places four tracks.

The problem with the existing martinez station is that is a convoluted trip to get down there from most of the rest of central coco, where a 680/marina station would serve vallejo/benicia/concord/pleasant hill and walnut creek, with connections in both direction and would also serve as a park n ride form 80/680 commuters.

There is just a much greater chance of double tracking the sj route to stockton and cutting travel times before there will ever be an hsr line to concord. I mean considering right now we can't even get the thing from sf to sj, getting it to concord in a phase three is about 30 years away, about the time they start planning the next transbay tube.
Im the meantime offering increased san joa service will benefit everyone. Such increased service is already in the works.

jim said...

and also, getting a shuttle between skt and skn is a lot more likely than taking existing bart row, converting to standard gauge, stopping barts trains short of where they go, and converting to ebart and hsr. That just isn't going to happen. The day I see Bart give up that row for conversion to something else I'll eat liver. As for walking from market st to mission st. anyone wh cant do that shouldn't be leaving the house to begin with, especially with a fancy underground tunnel so god forbid anyone has to face the brutal SF weather, and moving sidewalks for the obese.
I'm just saying, some of the stuff is just not a big deal compared to the challenges of getting just one segment of one phase of thing into revenue service.

]I think tjpa has already requested the train box money and done a new design anyway. I don't think anyone has been shafted. The folks who come from the eastbay already walk several blocks when they get here. and that block between market and mission gives them a chance to get a coffee and muffin.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

I wasn't suggesting that BART give up ROW, just that the broad gauge line be shortened and the planned standard gauge eBART service - which will also be operated by the BART organization - stretched. It's just a question of where commuters from East CoCoCo will transfer.

Moving that transfer point from east of Pittsburg/Bay Point to somewhere south of hwy 4 would make it a viable destination for HSR services out to Sacramento and SoCal that would share track with eBART out to Oakley/Brentwood.

But ok, we're getting sidetracked here. This thread was supposed to be about getting the starter line from San Jose to Gilroy. Without a starter line, any discussion of CoCoCo is moot anyhow.

jim said...

by the way I don't know why I just remembered this but do you remember a story ( I read it in 7th grade in the 70s, caled "the roads must roll" I thought it was Ry Bradbuy but no, its, Robert Heinlein...

its a very cool story about a high speed conveyor belt form of transit nationwide.
It takes place though with the 1-5 belts and the stockton area.

storyaudio take a listen , kind of entertaining.

jim said...

oh no not union troubles in the sacramento sector!!!the roads must roll

mike said...

I didn't suggest an HSR spur to Pittsburg. I suggested one to North Concord, ideally even downtown Concord, by shortening the BART line

Yes, I understand that is your strategy. From a political perspective that would never happen though. Not that a Pittsburg spur has much chance of happening. But tearing up the BART tracks will never happen.

I don't think it would even save much time anyway. You're talking about running an extra 5 miles at 90 or 100 instead of 70.

Rafael said...

@ mike -

speed isn't the issue as much as the operational stability of the broad-gauge BART network.

Contrary to what you might think, there are some at BART would actually quite like to shrink its existing lines to more manageable proportions. In a sane world, Bayfair-Santa Clara would be a separate line, regardless of gauge.

Pittsburg/Bay Point wouldn't even work logistically as the end point of an HSR spur because there's nowhere to park trains overnight. There is room for a standard gauge terminal at North Concord. In downtown Concord, any new station would have to be built on top of the existing BART parking lot.

Note that it's perfectly possible to provide cross-platform transfers between two services at a regular station with just two platform tracks: simply terminate each service in a single track. That's how the eBART transfer station is supposed to work. I don't why they feel they need to build that rather than just re-gauge one track at Bay Point (or North Concord, or Concord). That wouldn't work for full-length HSR trains, but that's why they invented turnoffs.

Marine Layer said...

Should the A's ballpark proposal move forward, there will be no way to build an aerial south of Diridon as you propose, Rafael. It would go right through left field. Whether or not the ballpark is built, Montgomery St is not long for this world because San Jose is close to converting the two one-way streets (Montgomery/Autumn) into a single four-lane boulevard. City is also talking to Caltrans about relinquishing and moving the CA-82 designation so that City can take properly take over design of the new streetscape.

A tunnel is undoubtedly more expensive, but it sounds best from engineering and political standpoints. The curves wouldn't be as severe and the deep tunnel wouldn't be as disruptive and messy as the aerial. The big problems in the area are the high water table and the massive culvert system built for the Guadalupe River.

Rafael said...

@ Marine Layer -

ok, so San Jose may end up having to make a decision: get yourself a ballpark or force CHSRA to switch to Altamont, perhaps without a spur to San Jose at all.

This is a state-wide project. Cities with HSR stops have responsibilities well beyond their strictly local development objectives.

Fwiw, there's a large parking lot between the Guadeloupe River and hwy 87 at Delmas St. that looks big enough for a ball park. There is plenty of space for multi-story car parks in the area.

Rafael said...

Sorry, my bad:

get yourself a ballpark and force CHSRA to switch to Altamont, perhaps without a spur to San Jose at all.

looking on said...

Rafael writes:

so San Jose may end up having to make a decision: get yourself a ballpark and force CHSRA to switch to Altamont, perhaps without a spur to San Jose at all."

Off the wall, I would say. San Jose, which forced the route through Pacheco in the first place, now changing directions giving up it position being on the main line and even not getting a spur? For a ballpark!!

You are kidding aren't you. If Diridon reads this, he might well have a heart attack. His 25 year dream being destroyed?

The whole project now seems up for grabs. The financial workshop exposes huge funding gaps even for phase 1. Pringle now expressing that funding is the number one obstacle. Starting to run through the halls of the legislature is CHSRA lobbying for another bond measure, which it needs or it can't even complete phase 1.

Will California voters ever approve another 10 billion for the project? would the legislature ever get the 2/3 votes needed to put it on the ballot?

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

San Jose wants BART + HSR + ball park. Caltrain owns the ROW down to Lick, close to the Monterey Hwy. For now, it's unclear on which ROW tracks would continue south to Gilroy or how fast they would be permitted to run.

The alignment discussed in the post has the significant advantage of staying out of south San Jose neighborhoods, at the expense of some tight curves and a station at an angle, just where local planners had wanted to site their ball park.

Unless CHSRA manages to stick with the UPRR/Monterey Hwy corridor, San Jose might well be forced to either abandon the Pacheco Pass route or HSR or else its ball park - at least in the currently intended location. San Jose has yanked the entire state's chain before, don't be surprised if it tries to do so again in some fashion.

As for funding, that was always going to be a major problem all the way to completion. Going back to California voters to ask for another $10 billion is a non-starter, certainly at the present time. The objective needs to be more federal funding, but that means waiting for the next surface transportation bill.

Right now, the Obama administration has cleared the decks for health care reform. AB3034 allows the state legislature to spend up to $900 million on planning and preliminary engineering, so for now CHSRA should proceed on the assumption that at the end of the day, the money will be there.

Construction isn't due to start on any segment until the fall of 2011, so there's still two years to go until any needs to be spent on that. Two years is a long time in and economy, even more so in politics. If we all started to run around like headless chickens every time the California legislature failed to pass a budget on time, we'd never get any infrastructure at all built.

Anonymous said...

Rafael -

Perhaps you don't understand the depth of CHSRA's funding gap. The $10 billion new bond assumes they get $20 billion from the feds over next 5-7 years.

And even another $10 bn bond will probably not be enough. There would be probably be another $10 bn on the heels of that one.

Mehdi and the finance team were very careful to distance themselves from current cost estimates during the meeting. The Anaheim segment is already now at double the cost they had in Nov 2008 biz plan, not even counting electrification costs. The other segments will have similar cost adjustments.

jim said...

I stil they could could use elevated on the existing vta row with center Y columns like bart, above the vta. 87/85/101

Anonymous said...

101 is a fine solution from a row/ feasibility perspective but you lose 10 minutes which means you might as well go altamont.

The pacheco pass will be a money pit like none other. You will end up with 20 miles of tunnels and 30 miles of high acquaduct.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, will never vote again for any capital improvement ballot measures. Period. And I will try to influence my friends to do likewise.

Corruption is ubiquitous, the Palmdale boondoggle being a glaring example. Developmntal schemes are being peddled as environmental. Bechtel balderdash, like BART broad gauge

Anonymous said...


What would your Altamont route be if you decided that Santa Clara/ San Jose Airport would be the San Jose stop instead of Diridon?

Marine Layer said...

Rafael, you yourself proposed a solution that could work in your original post. This is not about pitting one development objective over another. The fact is that SVLG and San Jose want both HSR and the A's right there, and they pushed the approved route knowing that a ballpark was a distinct possibility. Local residents and businesses have no problem discussing how the two projects could work together, so there's no great NIMBY effect as there is up the Peninsula. A tunnel may well be the most practical solution given all of the area constraints.

That land you're referring to is the old SJ Water Co. site, now owned by Adobe for some future expansion. It's not big enough for a ballpark.

Morris Brown said...


You are a reasonable and extremely well read and informed person. I have learned a lot from your postings. Obviously you prefer to express yourself on the routing, technical challenges of the project.

But the project is much more than these issues. From the very beginning, my opposition and opposition from DERAIL, of which I was one of the founders, centered on the financial issues. The Authority has continually tried to push these issues below the horizon. Thus no business plan before the election last fall. Still an inadequate business plan today. The threat of no funding for the 2sd half of this fiscal year is on the table at Senator Lowenthal's Trans and Housing committee, over this issue.

So, when you write

As for funding, that was always going to be a major problem all the way to completion

implying this is no big surprise and really doesn't deserve much more comment than this, I object.

I left the Authority's meeting last Thursday before the afternoon financial workshop took place. What I know right now is second hand information from others who attended, and the indications are that it was’t pretty; that what Anon 9:06AM wrote is pretty much on target. The statement by Pringle in the Contra Costa Time’s rebuttal indicated great concern over the issue as well.

A critical point in the project is coming very soon. The morning session spent a great deal of time discussing funds from the stimulus package, what should be prioritized, how much should be requested.

I am awaiting the posting of the audio/visual on the workshop, so that I can get my firsthand look. I hope you will do the same.

It would be a true betrayal of the public trust to have the Authority spend $950 millions on studies, without much much better assurance that even Phase 1 of this project can be funded and completed. I certainly believe this is major concern of the Simitian sub-committee, which is overlooking the project.

Some of the more cynical believe that PB would be quite content with such an outcome.

Bay Area Resident said...

Hey Marine Layer, there is a huge NIMBY effort in San Jose coming from south of Diridon, these are the south san jose Santa Teresa areas and Willow glen. The south bay train meetings were just as contentious as the menlo park ones. And the scoping comments were just released that show that the various south bay neighborhood groups submitted MORE comments than any of the north bay towns. Lets try to stay on point here.

Bay Area Resident said...

My second and third hand knowledge of the San Jose neighborhood meetings was that the plan was to go underground through the San Jose neighborhoods- from Tamien station to diridon as a minimum. We are talking about 1/2 mile there so while costly this is nothing insurmountable. They also discussed using the mole for this section, not a cut and cover tunnel. So the hard curves of both Rafaels suggestion as well as the existing caltrain row (referred to as the Willow Glen Fishhook) become moot.

Marine Layer said...

I should've been more specific Bay Area Resident. I was referring specifically to the Diridon area. There's more of an understanding about living near a train station. I get the NIMBY feeling in Willow Glen and South SJ, it could be very disruptive to their historically quiet neighborhoods.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:06am -

I haven't seen the most recent cost estimates, a doubling for the LA-Anaheim section implies Curt Pringle has lost cost control and needs to regain it, fast.

Morshed is probably distancing himself from these escalations because he was overruled on key decisions, e.g. the best way to get through the bit of the Fullerton-Anaheim section where the ROW is just 50 feet wide. Building dedicated tracks there, let alone tunneling under the existing ones, was not part of the original plan.

That called for 2-3tph into ARTIC, using signaling for guaranteed time separation against the FRA-compliant traffic. Perhaps Curt Pringle wants more trains than that to go into his new temple for OCTA.

If you decide to tunnel under existing tracks rather than build a nicely architected aerial with double or triple glazed transparent sound walls or else, offering abutting homeowners a generous deal for their properties, then of course you end up with pure unobtainium before long - especially if the locals don't have to chip in for this gold-plated solution. CHSRA needs to show some flexibility, but it can't afford to let itself be pushed over.

Conflict of interest for Anaheim mayor Curt Pringle? Sure smells like it.

Another complication driving up costs may have been that BNSF isn't quite as accommodating as CHSRA has hoped it would be. Plans now call for a five-mile viaduct above the Hobart Yard and points south. Apparently, BNSF isn't as paranoid about serious derailments as UPRR, but they're not willing to simply sell part of the Transcon ROW width, either. That's probably the most valuable real estate in their entire network.

Unfortunately, there aren't many viable alternatives to the BNSF ROW. The cheapest solution by a mile would be to upgrade the signaling on the FRA-compliant line to permit higher speeds for Amtrak PS + Metrolink between LAUS and ARTIC.

If Caltrain gets its mixed traffic waiver for standard speed, perhaps Metrolink could get one as well and be given funds to buy some lightweight EMUs with decent acceleration (= more throughput on the line). Electrifying the LAUS-ARTIC section with an OCS tall enough for AAR plate H would cost some money, as would FRA quiet zone crossings. Still, peanuts compared to tunneling through suburbia.

Metrolink's OC line currently has 3-4 tph during peak periods. The 91 line adds another 3 tph in the critical Fullerton-Redondo Junction section. Add 1 tph for Amtrak PS and the BSNF traffic.

The situation is not really comparable to Caltrain in the peninsula, which owns the entire ROW from SJ to SF, with sufficient width for quad tracking almost everywhere and a lot less freight traffic. Even more so than LA, SF has a well-developed network of connecting transit.

Anaheim isn't there yet, so it's worth asking how much money should be burnt on getting bullet trains into ARTIC in phase 1. Unfortunately, Anaheim was explicitly named as part of the starter line in AB3034.

Rafael said...

@ BAR -

the original plan for the section from Diridon to Lick did not include any tunnel, just a mix of aerials and embankments. The biggest bone of contention was the San Carlos overpass, which CHSRA wanted to fly over. I'm not sure why converting the street to an underpass or back to a grade crossing wasn't considered, perhaps neither option was feasible or acceptable.

An extra three miles of tunneling just to accommodate a ball park seems expensive to me. It would be possible to stick with current station plans but veer off the Caltrain ROW toward the parking lot next to Royal, fly over Bird Ave and descend to the 280 median just west of the overpass turnoff. This would involve a modest amount of land purchases, via eminent domain if need be. On the upside, the curve radius would be larger.

Rafael said...

@ BAR, marine layer -

map has been updated to reflect tweak that would keep both the HSR station and ball park in their presently planned locations. Some eminent domain may be required, though.

Marine Layer said...

Rafael - I think I've seen a drawing similar to that before. It may make the most sense in the end because it wouldn't require a tunnel. Care will have to be taken to preserve the original Orchard Supply Hardware location (77 years), which is at the SW corner of San Carlos and Royal. Other than that, Royal is a little used street with more day laborers than traffic. Most of the businesses there have access from other surrounding streets.

Tony D. said...


I've been going over this vast hypothetical of yours and just can't see any reason why the current plan for a HSR aerial from Diridon/Lick won't fly (no pun intended). UPRR shouldn't have an issue with HSR going OVER its ROW. I say continue the aerial past Lick to the vicinity of the current Capitol Station on Monterey HWY. You then have smooth sailing all the way south to Gilroy.

Also, there are plans to replace the San Carlos Street Bridge in the Diridon area. It should have a high-rise section to fly over BOTH UPRR and HSR aerial. Check it out yourself:

By the way, I've never followed the "fear and loathing" part of your post title. San Jose isn't fearing or loathing anything! One way or another, SJ/Gilroy will get its HSR. The Big Wigs of the SVLG won't have it any other way ;o)..

Spokker said...

Just out of curiosity, is a business plan drawn up when a freeway is planned to be built?

Spokker said...

Everybody should fight for what they believe in, but I would think that some of the effort against HSR should be directed toward the continued foolish investment in freeway construction in this country.

I think about freeways, especially widenings, and they just happen. I vividly remember the I-5 widening in Orange County that happened when I was a kid. It just happened. One day it was just there. It just got bigger. More recently, the 22 was widened and it just happened, just like that. There wasn't a county wide vote to build or not build this single project. It was included, like many projects, in a bundle of "improvements" that would be funded by a sales tax increase. There is a kind of safety in numbers when all the projects are put together like that. No one project is overly scrutinzed, especially here.

Now they are planning to widen yet another freeway in Orange County. They ultimately want 20 lanes total. Despite a pathetic attempt from a newly formed transit advocacy group, there will hardly be any strong opposition to it. There will be no calls for a business plan. Radio hosts won't call it a boondoggle (at least any of the ones people actually listen to). Few people will attend the community meetings regarding the project.

It will just happen.

Spokker said...

At least parts of LA County and SF have figured out how to oppose a freeway. So there's hope.

jim said...

there's a freeway somewhere in orange county that has like 20 lanes or something. its where one meets the other. somewhere on the way from riverside to the beaches. Is insane - and - to see at night - when its jammed packed - all those head and tail lights - all those lanes - its amazing.

Bay Area Resident said...

Rafael, What I have heard is that Diridon station is moving slightly to the east. This would be the tracks themselves, perhaps not the historic building that is there now. By doing that, many of these problems go away. HSR tunnels into it starting at Tamien, in much more of a straight line and avoids the Willow Glen fishhook. There is a tunnel already planned coming out of Diridon to the north.

James said...

@Spokker @10:43 PM

Yes, toll roads do have a business plan.

"The Toll Roads - which are owned and maintained by the state of California -- were built with virtually no taxpayer dollars"

Alon Levy said...

James, what you say about toll roads is misleading. A more accurate assessment is, "After 50 years of building free roads on the government's dime, which encouraged high car ownership and auto dependency and caused business to cater to automobiles, toll roads could be built without requiring taxpayer dollars."

Adirondacker12800 said...

A more accurate assessment is, "After 50 years of building free roads on the government's dime, which encouraged high car ownership and auto dependency and caused business to cater to automobiles, toll roads could be built without requiring taxpayer dollars."

Reach back a bit farther to the end of World War II and it could be "After seeing how well the toll roads of the Northeast and Midwest worked, the rest of the country figured out a way to get someone else to pay for theirs. 50 years after that we are going back to the model of letting the highway users pay for the highway."

By the time the first shovel full of dirt turned for the Interstate system you could get from Boston to Chicago or Washington DC to Chicago or Boston to DC on limited access highways that were close to Interstate highway standards. There were short breaks here and there that were mostly filled in by they early 60s.

Alon Levy said...

But it wasn't just toll roads. The New York City expressway system was free; the tolls were just for the Hudson and East River crossings.

Adirondacker12800 said...

But it wasn't just toll roads. The New York City expressway system was free; the tolls were just for the Hudson and East River crossings.

The NYC Parkway system wasn't duplicated anywhere to any great degree. There used to be more tolls. The only way to leave the city, on a limited access highway was the LIE and some of the parkways into Westchester. They don't help much if you goal is Boston, Philadelphia, Albany...

They weren't drooling at the FDR Drive and the Belt Parkway, they were drooling at the Turnpikes and the Thruway.