Tuesday, August 12, 2008

62% of Californians Want High Speed Rail

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

That's the latest polling numbers from JMM Research on our high speed rail project, as quoted on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today:

California has long talked about a high-speed rail line to connect the San Francisco Bay Area to Southern California. After years of chatter about the project, a $10 billion bond measure to start construction will be put to a vote this year. Last month, 62% of voters polled by JMM Research said they would support the bond measure, up from 52% in November. Voters cited having an "affordable" transportation alternative, "reducing dependence of foreign oil" and "reducing traffic congestion" as reasons for supporting measure. "You could start seeing [voter opinion] turn in May, when gas was $4.50 to $5 a gallon here," says JMM Research President Jim Moore.

JMM Research is the in-house pollster for the official HSR campaign, but their previous polls were confirmed by the Field Poll, the state's most respected polling outfit, last month. 62% is a wonderful number, but I'm not overconfident - Prop 1(A) is going to be hard-fought struggle going into the November election. It's going to take a lot of effort and work to win this.

The poll is quoted in the context of a much bigger article on how high gas prices are changing the American economy. The article makes many of the same points I made on Sunday - that only long-term demand destruction, accomplished through the provision of alternatives, is going to allow us to handle this crisis without economic disaster.

Those who would point to the recent easing of gas prices as evidence that the crisis is over have missed the point entirely - gas prices have eased only because Americans started cutting back on their consumption. What that means is if the reduced consumption is not sustained and expanded, prices WILL rise again.

The WSJ article isn't perfect, though. Right after the section quoted above on HSR comes this:

Harvard University urban economist Edward Glaeser says there are limits to how much the U.S. can be expected to follow Europe and Japan. The U.S. population grew nearly fourfold in the 20th century, an increase that coincided with the rise of the automobile. Motor travel reshaped the country, allowing people to move away from the old coastal cities and transport hubs. In Europe and Japan, much of the population growth occurred before car travel took hold, so people are still clustered around old transport hubs. That makes it easier to forgo car travel.

However, as the article points out, high gas prices are destroying exurban growth and sprawl and driving people into the "old coastal cities and transport hubs." And as Matt Melzer pointed out last month, California's population distribution patterns closely resemble those of Spain, where HSR has been an outstanding success.

The WSJ article doesn't examine peak oil but it does suggest that the cost of oil isn't coming down anytime soon:

Demand from rapidly growing economies of China and India make lasting oil-price declines less likely these days. Despite the market's recent fall, prices remain above the prior inflation-adjusted peak of $106.15, set in April 1980.

The high prices have been a drag on an economy already sagging due to the housing downturn and shaky credit markets. Auto sales have fallen, airlines are cutting back on flights, small trucking firms are going out of business, and transportation costs are eating into corporate profits.

Much of the way America has come to live and do business is predicated on low energy prices.

It's becoming clear to businessmen and government leaders around the world that HSR is necessary for a prosperous 21st century economy. But those in California who complain about grade separations in Menlo Park, or the Pacheco alignment, or the possibility of small cost overruns here and there, are deliberately ignoring those fundamental, big picture issues.

California has lots of transportation needs, let there be no doubt about it. HSR won't solve them all. But by providing faster in-region commutes and faster in-state travel, using a sustainable, cheap, and potentially renewable energy source not dependent on high oil costs, HSR will help Californians reduce their oil consumption. As the WSJ explained, that in turn produces savings, jobs, and economic growth.

Ten years from now when HSR is up and running we'll look back on this debate and wonder why there was any hesitancy at all.


Rafael said...

This relatively high support for the idea of constructing an HSR network is encouraging. Clearly, the majority of Californians do have enough common sense to realize that the price of oil is likely to stay both high and volatile, with knock-on effects on transportation fuels and virtually everything else. They also understand that continued population growth will happen and, increase demand for transportation.

That said, I'm not sure it's wise to sweep specific complaints about certain implementation details under the rug in quite so cavalier a manner. Surely, the better option would be to at least try to come up with some creative solutions for these.

For example, HSR could run through Menlo Park and Atherton at grade in a box tunnel, with a public linear park on the roof. These wealthy cities would have to chip in a fair chunk of change to make that possible, but at least it would create an option.

Similarly, it would have been wise for CHSRA to bend over backwards in an attempt to make an Altamont Pass-only option workable, in spite of the many applicable planning contraints. This might still have resulted in a preference for Pacheco, but at least due process would have been served and the pending lawsuit perhaps avoided.

Cost overruns are, unfortunately, more likely than not on such a large project. However, keeping them as small as possible requires excellent management, which IMHO should not be sacrificed on the altar of the "big picture". If something this big and long-lived is worth doing, it is worth doing well. However, the perfect should not be the enemy of the good enough.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I don't really disagree with any of this. The details do matter, and your thoughts on how to deal with Altamont and Menlo Park/Atherton are sound. At this point my own focus is on winning the vote in November, but I know the comments will always be full of good conversation about how to ensure the project is built right once we do pass the bonds.

Anonymous said...

There is some precedent for Rafael's tunnel suggestion. BART through Berkeley was originally to be a mix of aerial and subway, but Berkeley taxed itself to finance changes such that BART is virtually all subway through Berkeley.

2 miles of quadruple-track cut-and-cover should run ~$300 million. But they would save over $100 million on not having to eliminate 6 grade crossings (Fair Oaks, Watkins, Encinal, Glenwood, Oak Grove, Ravenswood), so net cost to MP/Atherton is $200 million or less. Probably an assessment of $10,000 per property. The cities would also gain about 10 acres of land (in the linear park).

The biggest issue would be the stations. Atherton would clearly be eliminated, but would anyone want to pay for an underground Menlo Park station? Doubtful. A better proposition would be to transition from tunnel to trench just after Oak Grove and have a side platforms in the trench, then continue under Ravenswood before coming up to grade level.

Anonymous said...


I don't understand your Altamont alignment. I-580 is not straight enough through Altamont Pass to allow 150+ mph running. You also appear to have curves with radii of 800 m or less in at least three locations (580-Livermore Airport, 680-foot of Sunol Grade, and 680-280 transition). Running speeds would be under 100 mph in those locations. How are you going to keep trip times short with this kind of alignment?

Robert Cruickshank said...

As I understand it, Berkeley diverted redevelopment funds they were receiving from the state and federal government to pay for putting BART underground through the city. I don't believe the city had to create any new taxes to do so, but I could be wrong.

Menlo Park and Atherton should put up their own money, which they clearly have, if they want HSR built to their exact specifications.

Anonymous said...

The BART history page claims, "After originally approving a combination aerial and subway line through Berkeley, that city later came to oppose the plan in favor of a subway-only line, which was much more expensive. The new plan necessitated redesign of the Ashby Station from an aerial to a subway facility. Extensive controversy and hearings ensued for the next 2 1/2 years, finally to be resolved by Berkeley residents voting to tax themselves additionally to finance the changes they wanted."

But it could be inaccurate.

Rafael said...

@ Mike -

a. Atherton and Menlo Park would like a trench, but what they may not realize is that this option would block run-off during and after winter storms. So you'd minimize the visual and noise impact at the risk of occasional flooding of major arteries like the railroad and El Camino Real.

Also - not to put too fine a point on it - sewage happens. Trench construction could prove a real Pandora's Box.

b. per definition, running the alignment at grade means nothing is underground. The Caltrain stations in Menlo Park and Atherton could easily be intergrated into a box tunnel design, since the structure would be entirely above ground.

c. the alternative alignment I propose in my map does include a few fairly sharp corners. One is close to SJ Diridon, two on 680 and others near the Livermore Valley and Tracy stations. In the Altamont Pass itself, it might be possible to straighten out the alignment with a viaduct.

But yes, your point is valid. It would indeed be difficult for express trains to maintain very high speeds throughout between San Jose and Tracy. Modern multiple unit trainsets like Alstom's AGV do accelerate a whole lot faster than first-generation TGVs, but they are still not comparable to subway trains in that regard. Ergo, routing trains along the route I proposed would result in a time penalty for express trains from SF to LA over an above the additional ~40 miles that need to be covered.

This actually goes right to the heart of the dispute: you can optimize either for minimal transit time to SoCal or for maximum utility for travel within Northern Californa. You can't have both.

Personally, I think someone traveling from SF to LA with full cell phone coverage and broadband internet access isn't going to care all that much about whether the journey takes 2 hours 38 minutes or approx. 2 hours 50 minutes. As long as it's under three hours, it's still very much preferable to flying.

On the other hand, someone traveling between the Bay Area and Sacramento or e.g. Modesto is going to care a great deal about the extra time the Pacheco Pass option will require.

CHSRA's preferred route optimizes for a single parameter, SF-LA line haul time. If they had chosen this particular Altamont variation instead, the result would have been a much better balance of the legitimate transportation needs of a much larger subset of the state's population.

The substantially smaller populations of Gilroy, Hollister, Watsonville, Salinas and one day, Monterey could - indeed, should - be all served by Caltrain and/or express buses. Heavy rail at 110mph would be preferable but UPRR's main line south of Gilroy is currently single track and to clapped out to sustain those speeds. Significant investment would be required to fix that, but much less than full HSR tracks would cost.

Bottom line: the addition of Sacramento and San Diego ought to have signaled CHSRA that this project isn't just about relieving congestion at SFO and LAX any longer. Sadly, they failed to understand that the problem definition has subtly changed.

Anonymous said...

Regarding how the train would pass though Menlo Park and Atherton.

Be aware that the kind of funds you are looking at obtaining locally from these areas are just not possible.

Menlo Park's current annual budget is in the 33-45 million dollars per year depending on whether you include the redevelopment agency or not.

You are looking at costs of at least 100 million for each of 4 crossing doing conventional raise the tracks grade crossings. When you start to talk about trenching or tunneling, the cost are much much higher. So any talk about local funds being able to pay for these kind of infra-structure is out of the question.

The CHSRA has no intention of accommodating these areas, as shown by their attitude when accepting and rejecting comments on the EIR.

The same should be said for them rejecting the Altamont superior route.

The poll claiming 62% from JMM in the WSJ seems isolated. I haven't seen any other news source quoting these results. Furthermore, the article mentioned this was up from an earlier poll done in November. The earlier poll was done in Feb., and it claimed a much higher awareness on the part of the voters than the Field poll did.

Has anyone seen other mention of this new poll and if so, can the complete data be obtained.

Brandon in California said...

The 62% support is good news. I suspect that number will increase with more and more awareness of the project comes up.

I am lost for energy in participating in the other discussion in this post.

However I'll say that I printed and read the petition/lawsuit filed last week.

What it appears to me is that those filing just don't like the decision that was made by the CHSRA for the Pacheco alignment. I am sure if they 'understood' better why that decision was made they'd have less gusto for filing a complaint.

At the end of the day I think a judge will hear arguments, maybe seek additional information, but will eventually dismiss the suit.


Maybe if the litigants understood the following they would not have filed suit.

Altamont has 2 basic variants. One appears time competitive with Pacheco, but it splits trains near Fremont... effectively providing far less capacity service from SoCal to San Francisco.

The other comes down and loops around the southern end of the Bay and takes much more time to get to San Francisco.

The CHSRA must have decided that each was not practical for providing quality statewide train service just so M-F peak period commute service is provided. And, Altamont could always happen in a later phase.

I don't think the judge should award them attorney fees. I don't see a credible argument.

Rafael said...

@ morris brown -

Atherton already has a motor vehicle underpass at 5th Avenue, Menlo Park would get one at Ravenswood only. To keep the railroad at grade and avoid shoofly tracks, massive earthworks etc., the remaining crossings would have to be permanently closed to motor vehicles.

Btw, a box tunnel does not require any digging. It is an above-ground structure enclosing a road or railroad on three sides. Such structures are expensive and therefore rare, but if Atherton and Menlo Park want to preserve their tranquil bucholic charm, this would do the trick.

Plus, there'd be a park on the roof - 3.4 miles long and 100 feet wide. That's actually bigger than the Highline Park in New York, which has triggered a real estate bonanza in what was once that city's meatpacking district.

Granted, Menlo Park and Atherton aren't New York, but they are two of the wealthiest communities in all of California. A beautiful elevated park would surely be a valuable addition - especially compared to the looming alternative.

Btw, $150 million financed over 30 years would be around $7 million a year. Even for the combined residents of these cities, that is a substantial sum. Nevertheless, it's something you may want to think about.

You complain that CHSRA is unwilling to accommodate Menlo Park and Atherton. This begs the question: what have you done to accommodate the rest of the state?

Anonymous said...


I believe you will find that the 5th Ave underpass is in Redwood City, not Atherton.

If you are correct in that the Authority only plans to build one grade crossing in Menlo Park and close the other 3 street inter-sections, no one in this city would approve of such a plan.

How does this make sense when Morshed has publicly stated the project is going to provide over 600 grade crossings along the entire route?

If I understand correctly, the box structure would be a wall, at least 100 feet wide,30 feet high??, but hollow for the train to pass through, for 3.5 miles long, passing through through Atherton and Menlo Park.

I suppose there might be some who would appreciate the new soccer fields, but it would not be acceptable.

Capital expenditures of this magnitude must come from sources other than the very limited local taxes can support.

Tony D. said...

As a San Jose native, Gilroy resident and supporter of the Pacheco Pass alignment, I disagree and feel due process WAS SERVED and the correct entry into the Bay Area (at least in the initial route) was chosen. The "NIMBY/crying" lawsuit has absolutely no justification, and defending it is ridiculous. San Jose/Silicon Valley, again the population/employment engine of Northern California, should not have been relegated to a "spur" line just to satistfy smaller central valley towns such as Tracy and Modesto. And again, the main purpose of this project is an alternative travel mode between LA-Bay Area, not Sacramento-Bay Area. Why on Earth should Silicon Valley and the nations 10th largest city play second fiddle to smaller towns in the Central Valley? The issue now, as Robert has suggested, is concentrating on getting Prop.1 passed this November. Pacheco Pass was chosen over Altamont, and with a little patience that corridor will get it's HS overlay...let's move on!

Anonymous said...

Morris, I'm sorry but Menlo Park is one of the wealthiest communities in California. The reason you all don't have enough money is because of far-right conservative control of the city government; conservative governments tend to lower taxes dramatically, resulting in lower tax income and a budget for the city.

If taxes were to be raised (and I'm sure a community like yours could afford it) then it could easily pay off this project.

Anonymous said...


I misunderstood what you were proposing for MP/Atherton. The downside to the box tunnel is that you still have to grade separate afterwards. But it would solve the station issue.

Wrt Altamont, I don't see how +40 miles distance could increase running times by only 12 mins. Even with just a 2 minute penalty for reversing directions, you need to average 240 mph on the extra 40 miles. Given the curves in your proposed route, I suspect a 120 mph average over the additional 40 miles would be more likely, so SF-LA increases from 2'38" to 3'00". Reasonable people can still debate whether that is worthwhile.

I agree that the SF/SJ-Sacto run is the primary casualty of the Altamont decision. I can't say how competitive HSR would be with autos for SF-Sacto. Even via Altamont, running time is an hour. Driving is less than 1.5 hrs, so HSR won't win door-to-door. But during rush hour it would be attractive, given I-80 traffic.

I've long assumed that the Altamont corridor carries a much higher number of commuters, but it turns out that's untrue. Caltrans/UCB PeMS data reveal that I-580 W carries ~85,000 vehicles/day coming through the Altamont. At least 10,000 of these come from SoCal and would be potential customers on either route, so the marginal increase in potential customers from Altamont is ~75,000 (many, of course, would remain on the highway). US-101 N carries ~65,000 vehicles/day through the Morgan Hill corridor. 580-Altamont does have additional traffic vis a 101-Morgan Hill, but not nearly as much as I had expected.

That said, I do see your point that upgrading UPRR near 101 for higher speed running is much easier than upgrading UPRR through the Altamont/Niles Canyon. It is clearly cheaper to do Altamont main line + Gilroy "overlay" (with no Pacheco) than it is to do Pacheco main line + Altamont "overlay".


Your grade separation cost estimates are way off. Caltrain estimates $170 million to eliminate all 5 crossings in San Bruno via an embankment between Colma Creek and San Felipe St. This also includes the construction of a 4-track line (it's currently 2-track), 3 new pedestrian underpasses, and a brand new elevated station for San Bruno. The embankment + grade crossing elimination in isolation comes to $100 million. A simple grade crossing elimination of all 6 Menlo Park and Atherton crossings is around $125 million. Quadruple track (HSR) might raise it to $200 million. Neither is anywhere close to the ridiculous $600 million that you are proposing.

Heck, even the tunnels, track, aerial structures on the much-maligned BART SFO extension only cost ~$700 million, and that is 8.7 miles long, almost all underground. You are talking about less than 2 miles of track, above ground. Where in the world are you pulling these numbers from??

Anonymous said...


My numbers come from the projected costs in San Mateo and San Bruno by CalTrain for building crossings in those cities. This was given in a pdf or power point presentation.

I am on the road now, and do not have access to those projections on this computer; however from memory they were in the range from 89 - 200 million per intersection.

When I return, I'll give you the primary data.

In Menlo Park, the Ravenswood intersection is very complicated, also involving an existing train station, which has historic registration and many other problems. The crossings at Glenwood and Encinal are pretty simple,although the corridor is not sufficient for 4 tracks. The Oak Knoll intersection has lots of problems also and again sort on width.

Anonymous said...

@nikko pigman

I strongly suggest you do some research before you make a statement like

"The reason you all don't have enough money is because of far-right conservative control of the city government; conservative governments tend to lower taxes dramatically, resulting in lower tax income and a budget for the city."

You are completely off base here. There is not a single council member that would be called "far-right" conservative.

The one council person who I would not consider to be very liberal, is the only voting council member who did not support Menlo Park joining the lawsuit. He supports High Speed Rail through Menlo Park.

Menlo Park, being a general law City, has very limited abilities to raise revenues through increased taxes.

Certainly the residents could vote for a parcel tax or similar; the chances of getting a 2/3 majority to support this method of raising this kind of money is zero.

Diridon always makes the statement, "this project will not raise your taxes". He knows absolutely no chance of voter approval if you directly tie raised taxes this project. The money is coming from the general revenues of the State and those revenues come from taxes. Of course, the project is raising your taxes.

Brandon in California said...

I have not been to Menlo Park and Atherton for anything other than driving through.

My impression is that they are unbalanced with heavily residential with less retail businesses. If that is the case, their sales tax base will be lower than average while property taxes, regardless of inventory value, would go to San Mateo County (not the respective city).

An exception would be if a 'redevelopment district' was created... and in such a case, a higher portion of property taxes would remain in whatever district was created.

I seem to recall somone speaking to a redevelopment district. No?

Anonymous said...

AP news service reports that AB-3034 passed through the State Assembly today.

Anonymous said...

OOOO Mooris you big fat old CAT!!!
ARE you happy? Guess what..prop 1 will win then..we are going to bulldoze you old happy dog home

Anonymous said...


Don't bother looking for the documents, I already have them. All the numbers I gave you are derived from the Caltrain San Bruno grade separation project documents. In other words, you've been misinterpreting the numbers and overinflating the costs by a huge, huge margin. Even if you mistakenly ignore all the other stuff being built and just assume 5 grade crossings shut costs $170-200 million, you still max out at $34-40 million/crossing.

I performed a much more thorough analysis using the item-by-item San Bruno grade separation budget (embankment option, since that is what is being proposed for most of the line). The grade separations alone cost $28.6 million in 2003 raw construction costs. This includes: the 2 mile embankment, the San Bruno, San Mateo, and Angus Ave bridges, all of the utility work, and 62% of the miscellaneous costs and site work. Per Caltrain's assumption, we add 74% to the raw construction costs to cover contingencies, mitigations, and overhead: $28.6*1.74 = $49.8 million. Finally, Caltrain appears to be applying a construction cost inflation factor of 109% between 2003 (date of original plans) and 2014 (construction date). $49.8*2.09 = $104.1 million.

So there you have it. Using the San Bruno grade separation figures that you yourself have cited as a valid source of information in the past, total grade separation costs come to $20.8 million per crossing .

Question: I noticed that the derail website has a "news item" incorrectly claiming it costs $100 million for each eliminated grade crossing. Are you going to issue a correction noting that that figure is overstated by almost 5 times?

Anonymous said...

@ Morris (and everyone)

Here is a more comprehensive analysis of the SJ to SF section costs using the San Bruno grade separation numbers that Morris likes. All dollar figures are in millions and, per Caltrain methodology, account for set up costs, contingencies, overhead, inflation, etc.

38 grade crossings eliminated* at $20.8/crossing: $790.4
12 2-track bridges** at $8/bridge: $96
44 miles of 4-track mainline and turnouts installed at $10.4/mile: $457.6
17 stations*** at $18.2/station: $309.4
Electrification (per Caltrain estimates): $457
1.3 miles of 2-track tunnel**** from Bayshore to 22nd St SF: $234
Inflated ROW acquisition costs*****: $300
Positive train control signaling: $200

Total cost is $2,861.2 million. CHSRA is currently allocating ~$4.2 billion to the SJ-SF leg, so that leaves ~$1.33 billion that they could contribute to the Transbay Terminal approach and SJ Diridon expansion.

*Grade crossing costs include over 15 miles of 4-track embankment and all utility relocation
**These bridges are needed in locations that are currently grade separated but only have a 2-track bridge
***I assume that College Park, Stanford, Broadway, and Atherton will be eliminated or replaced with rudimentary facilities. Note that Bayshore, San Bruno, and Lawrence are already (or will be) configured for 4-track operation.
****Cost estimates come from SFO BART tunnel construction costs, doubled to account for inflation
***** Assume 20 miles of ROW widening needed at triple the estimated market price in nicer towns

Anonymous said...

To followup on my post above, note that the current Transbay Terminal budget assumes total contributions of $450-600 million from CHSRA. So based on the Caltrain-derived numbers that Morris likes, the $4.2 billion figure that CHSRA is allotting for the SJ-SF leg appears quite reasonable.

Also note that my analysis assumes that the Peninsula Corridor JPB (Caltrain) contributes nothing to these upgrades beyond the already-planned San Bruno Grade Separation project. Realistically, I expect that Caltrain would contribute a significant fraction of the electrification costs and a smaller fraction of the grade separation costs.

Anonymous said...


Re: Menlo Park ROW. Caltrain needs 60' for 4 tracks, including the earthwork/ballast (see, e.g., the 4-track Caltrain ROW 400' north of 5th Ave in Redwood City). The minimum ROW width in Menlo Park is 60', at Glenwood & Garwood. Technically 4 tracks could squeeze in here, but I'm pretty confident that Caltrain/CHSRA will want to be good neighbors (your own city's lawsuits notwithstanding) and leave a buffer zone. Such a zone would require the taking of 27 street parking spaces for which very generous compensation could be $50,000/space.

ROW acquisition thus increases Menlo Park/Atherton section costs by $1.4 million, from $183.8 million to $185.2 million. Of course, the $300 million ROW figure I included in my estimates accounts for these types of costs. The $300 million estimate appears to be much higher than necessary, but that is intentional.

Anonymous said...

@ mike

You write:

"Re: Menlo Park ROW. Caltrain needs 60' for 4 tracks, including the earthwork/ballast (see, e.g., the 4-track Caltrain ROW 400' north of 5th Ave in Redwood City)"

Quite frankly your statement here is nonsense.

From several train project engineers, they estimated a conservative need of 100 feet for 4 tracks is needed.

In point of fact we just received a letter from a State Rail division who calculated that 130 -180 feet would be needed. That calculated for a 15 foot high berm needing clearance for the catenaries and road maintenance.

So I don't know where you get your calculation for a 4 track system, but it is just non-sense. I believe, but being away right now, I recall 74 feet being required width from the EIR at the top.

Also please note addition width needed for shoo-fly tracks during construction.

無名 - wu ming said...

tony d -

san jose/silicon valley metro area is about 1.7 million

sacramento metro area is over 2 million

stockton + modesto comes out to about 1.2 million

i suppose one could try to argue that silicon valley's so darn eocnomically special that the population #s don't matter, but if you're talking about comparative populations served, the northern san joaquin + southern sacramento valley urban areas are significantly bigger than the south bay.

Anonymous said...

Morris, Caltrain already has four tracks plus grading and ballast in a 60-61' wide corridor in Redwood City. Do I have to give you the coordinates? (37 28'14" N, 122 12'26" W) I agree that you want at least 70' for buffers and so that it's easy to place signals, catenary poles, etc. But how can we have a rational discussion if you refuse to accept the stark reality that exists in the town directly north of yours?

180', incidentally, is absurd. Caltrain fits 9 tracks and 5 platforms in 180' at 4th and King. What kind of ridiculous design would require 130' for 4 tracks and 0 platforms, let alone 180'? Your sources are misleading you, either accidentally or intentionally.

Wrt shoo fly tracks: Yes, temporary tracks are necessary, but fortunately we are building a 4 track railroad and we only need at most 2 tracks in service during construction (this is more than sufficient for Caltrain's operational needs). In narrower sections they might well do something like add the northbound local track first, then operate on the northbound local and northbound express tracks while relocating/rebuilding the southbound express track and installing the southbound local track. No doubt there will be some train delays though, just as there were during Baby Bullet construction.

By the way, if you truly believe what you are saying, you might want to contact the Caltrain engineering staff and inform them of your findings regarding the 100' ROW. They have already drawn up detailed plans to build 4 tracks in San Bruno where the corridor is only 70-80 feet wide for long stretches. I'd imagine they think it's possible because the total width of the embankment fill sections and MSE wall sections is only 65-70 feet as per their engineering drawings.

You still haven't answered my question on the grade crossings analysis. Do you agree that your grade crossing numbers are not supported by the data you claim? Or do you believe there is a major error in my calculations (one that would need to triple or quadruple my numbers)? If so, what is it?

Anonymous said...


I'm not a railroad design engineer. We have information from those who are. I stand by my statement that 100 feet is least amount of corridor needed to provide the 4 tracks needed for CalTrain and HSR. The 130-180 foot needed was just received, and takes into account service corridor needed on a 15 foot high berm.

All the pretty pictures that CHSRA post never seem to emphasize the raised berm, but rather show the proposed train with catenaries hardly showing and the above grade berm hardly if at all visible.

If you search the web, you find realistic pictures, but you certainly don't seem to find these on the CHSRA site.

It would be nice if Rafael would comment on this subject.

Anonymous said...


If you truly believe your "sources," please inform Caltrain that their San Bruno Grade Separation project is totally unworkable as currently designed and needs to be redone from scratch. There is no doubt that they are putting a raised, grade separated 4-track line in a corridor that is substantially narrower than 100' in many locations.

You still have not answered my question re: grade separation costs. I'm not sure how to interpret your silence on this matter...it's beginning to appear that you don't actually care what the real numbers are or that you are comfortable with sticking by a figure that has been totally repudiated.

Spokker said...

"but rather show the proposed train with catenaries hardly showing"

I agree. In the final design the catenaries will be painted hot pink but *they* don't want you to know that.