Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Central Valley Test Track, Part 2

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

In part 1, we discussed why CHSRA needs to construct a high speed test track early on in the project. Here, I'll propose one way how this might be accomplished.

The primary objective for the test track is to achieve speeds of 220mph for extended periods of time. Given that HSR can and will only run that fast in the Central Valley, that's where the track will need to be. In addition, the segment will have to be used in regular commercial service once HSR operation begin, because it would be far too expensive and anyhow not necessary (h/t to commenter thik) to construct and maintain a dedicated facility.

CHSRA appears to have decided that the central maintenance facility will be located in Merced County, quite possibly at Castle airport (formerly Castle AFB of the SAC) in Atwater. The airport is currently only used for general aviation, but its single long runway would be ideal for heavy air lift and air cargo services. Given the low population density of the area, it would be suitable for 24/7 operations. With the addition of a small passenger terminal featuring an HSR station inside the building, it could also support trans- and intercontinental passenger flights using the largest available jets (747, A380). In that sense, Castle airport could serve not just the Central Valley but - eventually (h/t to Robert Cruickshank) - perhaps also San Benito, Monterey plus Santa Cruz counties and, as a relief airport for the San Francisco Bay Area. Capacity at SFO is often constrained by dense fog.

The first part of my proposal is therefore to use Castle airport as the northern end of the test track.

View Larger Map


  • dark blue = current UPRR ROW
  • light blue = current BNSF ROW
  • yellow = proposed HSR test track alignment

Given that BNSF already hosts Amtrak San Joaquin trains, it may also offer to share its remaining ROW with HSR. Since UPRR has not, it makes sense to consider an alignment based mostly on BNSF's ROW. CHSRA had anyhow planned to use that south of Fresno, mostly because it affords easier access to the existing Amtrak station at Truxton Ave in Bakersfield. However, CHSRA had wanted to use the UPRR ROW in and north of Fresno because it affords access to the downtown areas of Fresno, Merced and Modesto. In and north of Stockton, UPRR is anyhow the only option. Since BNSF's ROW crosses UPRR's at a right angle in south Stockton, HSR would have to cut over further south, e.g. between Escalon and French Camp.

Merced County would probably be fine with having its station at Castle airport instead of downtown Merced, since it lobbied hard for just that solution. For Modesto, the current Amtrak station at E. Briggsmore lies at the the eastern edge of town. If UPRR is willing, it would be possible to cut over e.g. between the Stanislaus river and Modesto airport. Of course, all of these alignment changes would have to be reflected in the project-level EIR/EIS for the Sacramento spur, but construction on that won't start until the early 2020s.

Other advantages of using the BNSF ROW are that
(a) Amtrak can serve as an HSR feeder without a route change and,
(b) many towns that will not have an HSR or even Amtrak station will not be subjected to a lot of additional traffic through their downtown areas, possibly even high speed cargo operations at night. In Spain, AVE construction was complicated by small towns that desperately wanted to have stations on the high speed line between Madrid and Barcelona. Be careful what you wish for!

As the southern endpoint of the test track, I'd suggest Bakersfield. This will permit limited commercial HSR operations in the Central Valley to begin well before the entire starter line is completed. It also provides enough distance to conduct meaningful testing.

The fly in the ointment is that this means tackling the mess in Fresno early and head-on. Alan Kandel over at the California Progress Report has chronicled this saga in detail (though he has yet to discover Google Maps). The BNSF alignment in Fresno runs right through miles and miles of residential neighborhoods, at grade. Dozens of daily mile-long freight trains cause pollution, noise, vibration and especially, endless delays at the many grade crossings. The city has been trying to kick out BNSF for 90 (!) years, to no avail.

UPRR, for its part, appears quite happy to host the local San Joaquin Valley Railroad (SJVR, now a division of Rail America) and watch its primary competitor BNSF stuck with a PR nightmare. The company has resisted attempts to create a grade-separated joint freight corridor - conceptually similar to the Alameda corridor in LA - along its ROW, which runs next to hwy 99. Besides, Fresno has never had the money to implement all those grade separations and, FRA does not require them for alignment sections rated at less than 125mph - which means everything except the NEC. Its most recent "action plan" on grade crossings dates back to 2004 and suggests the agency spends most of its time writing reports and then mulling it all over some more.

Enter high speed rail, which Congressman Jim Costa (D-Fresno) has worked so hard for. All politics is local, after all...

A number of alternative solutions have been proposed, the one Alan Kandel prefers is called the Metro Rural Loop, subject of a recent regional planning workshop. It's still at the conceptual stage, calling for an enormous ring of bypass freeways around Fresno, stretching north to hwy 152 (Los Banos-Chowchilla) and south to hwy 198 (Hanford-Visalia-Exeter), perhaps even hwy 190 (Corcoran-Porterville).

Much of the area in-between would be gradually filled in with residential developments through 2110, by which time these four counties expect to be home to around 6.5-12 million people (baseline 7.7 million). Side note: it's not entirely clear to me where their drinking water would come from, unless agriculture in this parched section of California were to cease almost entirely.

Each of these bypass highways would consist of (see pp84 of this 8.2MB PDF document):

- 4 HOV, 6 mixed traffic and two emergency lanes (total 12 lanes)
- a two-lane frontage road to either side (total 4 lanes)
- two tracks of light rail, with zero room for express bypass tracks
- one multi-use path (i.e. bikes + pedestrians)
- eight rows of trees

Total width 400-450 feet. Some of the light rail lines would be over 50 miles long.

Grade separated major cross roads would feature:

- four mixed traffic lanes
- two BRT lanes
- two rows of trees

While I'm all for trees and transit, it seems to me the planners are steeped in asphalt lore and more than a little optimistic regarding the amount of gasoline and diesel that will still be available in 2110. Page 19 shows HSR scribbled in as a mere afterthought, several miles west of Fresno.

Transit oriented development - you're doing it wrong!

A slightly less grandiose - but still quite ambitious - alternative would be to focus just on the heavy rail alignments as a first step, since history suggests those are by far the hardest to move. CHSRA has decided - rightly, in my view - that high speed rail stations should be located in the downtown areas of major population centers. In the Central Valley, that means towns with 100,000 or more inhabitants that are expected to grow rapidly in the next few decades. Fresno surely qualifies.

The apparently simplest approach would be to leverage only the BNSF ROW and fully grade separate that. There are 26 road crossings, 23 of them currently at grade. The Fresno Amtrak station at Tulare and Q St. is located at the north-east end of the downtown area and would be an acceptable location for an HSR station. However, the alignment features a number of sharpish turns, which could well prevent operation at 220mph. Besides, even with full separation of the existing grade crossings, there would still be dozens of heavy freight trains running through residential neighborhoods every day, in addition to dozens of HSR and a handful of Amtrak passenger trains.

A more comprehensive, but also substantially more expensive concept has been suggested by Larry Miller in his recent op-ed in the Fresno Bee. What that might look like in practice is shown in this map:

View Larger Map


  • dark blue = current UPRR ROW/rail yard
  • light blue = current BNSF ROW/rail yard
  • green = current SJVR lines
  • purple = proposed Western Freight Corridor (WFC)
  • yellow = proposed HSR alignment (elevated for grade separation where appropriate)
  • black = proposed passenger heavy rail (Amtrak/regional), available for freight only if WFC unavailable due to accident etc.
  • brown = optional light rail alignments

The concept calls for the construction of a Western Freight Corridor (WFC) along a brand-new ROW through prime farmland west and south of Fresno, with access connectors for UPRR, BNSF and SJVR. It also calls for two new rail yards to compensate for the loss of access to the existing ones. The exact location of the corridor alignment and its rail yards would of course be subject to negotations, this map is just supposed to illustrate the basic concept.

This means no heavy freight trains would run through the city at all any longer. Optionally, a bypass freeway could be constructed just west of the WFC. That decision would need to be made early, as it would impact rail grade separation projects at the intersections with hwy 99 and rural access roads. A total of around 70 freight trains run through Fresno every day right now and, this number is expected to grow. During harvest time, slow road traffic would significantly impede freight trains, therefore the WFC should be largely grade separated before the tracks are even laid. It's much cheaper to do when there are no trains running yet.

The straight UPRR ROW within the city would be used for the following:

(1) HSR service, possibly including high speed cargo transshipment at the current BNSF yard in Calwa (south of downtown).

(2) Amtrak San Joaquin using FRA-compliant rolling stock. Note the option of additional county-level service between Firebaugh, Ingle, Pratton, Sanger, Reedley and Dinuba if planners decide to create new transit-oriented developments along part or all of this rural corridor. Heavy freight traffic would be permitted in downtown Fresno if and only if the new WFC were to become temporarily unavailable, e.g. as a result of an accident.

(3) optionally, light rail service using the current UPRR yard at N Weber Ave. The starter line would double back to the BNSF alignment via an existing ROW south of downtown and actually serve existing residential communities all the way out the Gregg, where the connection to the heavy rail tracks would be severed. A spur loop out to the airport terminal would be more difficult because the required ROW has been abandoned for so long. Also shown are optional extensions to Riverbend, Clovis (via the hwy 168 median) and Pinedale (via the hwy 41 median). Between them, these would vastly improve transit within the sprawling city and permit future growth via new transit-oriented developments arranged as a string of pearls.

However, the UPRR ROW is only 100 feet wide, enough for four tracks. Therefore, I'd suggest running HSR on an aerial structure directly above the at-grade tracks for the other services. That means there would still be grade crossings for these, but their gates would only be closed briefly, since passenger trains are short. In addition, they would be upgraded to meet FRA quiet zone regulations.

The new Fresno Central Station would be located near Tulare Street and feature the following:

  • 3 underground passages:

    • wide stairwells to at-grade platforms from outer passages
    • narrow stairwells plus elevator to island platform from middle passage
    • high-capacity elevators to side platforms (both levels) from middle passage

  • at grade:

    • station building
    • bicycle path + storage racks
    • 2 heavy rail tracks (west side)
    • room for 2 light rail tracks (east side)
    • side platforms plus shared central island platform. Level boarding for all trains would be preferable.

  • elevated:

    • 2 express HSR tracks through the center
    • 2 HSR side tracks with wide level boarding platforms (1320' long),
    • each with 2 stairwells to grade level at ends, plus
    • 2 stairwells to ends of grade level side platforms and on to the outer underground passages
    • optionally, 2 additional side tracks. In that case, the side platforms would become island platforms.

All told, the required width at the station only will be around 150-200 feet. Note that HSR trains that need to stop at the station must not impede express trains as they slow down or come up to speed, so it may be necessary to run four tracks of HSR for as much as a couple of miles to either side of the station. The switches will have to be especially long to support safe transfers between adjacent tracks at what will still be high speeds. Failure to pay attention to this could result in increased headways, i.e. reduced capacity, of the line.

In terms of phasing,

  • Step 1 would be persuading the city of Fresno, the four county-area and CHSRA that this concept is worth pursuing at all.
  • Step 2 would be convincing the railroads - especially UPRR - to also agree in principle.
  • Step 3 would be finding the money to fund construction of the WFC, likely to be a major sticking point. CHSRA certainly cannot afford to fund it by itself, nor should it.
  • Step 4 would be constructing the WFC including grade separations, new rail yards and access connectors (including the turnoff for heavy passenger rail near Herndon).
  • Step 5 would be migrating all freight rail operations out of Fresno.
  • Step 6 would involve construction of

    • any underpasses Fresno wants for the UPRR ROW
    • quiet zone grade crossings for the remaining cross roads
    • gantries and tracks for HSR
    • the new multi-modal station, prepped for light rail service

  • Step 7 would involve

    • migrating Amtrak San Joaquin to the new alignment
    • commencing HSR test runs (assuming the rest of the test track is completed by this time)

  • Step 8 would be the concurrent

    • introduction of county-level heavy passenger rail services, if any
    • construction of the light rail starter line
    • remodeling of the two legacy rail yards. Air rights to at least the UPRR yard could be sold to developers of high-rise office buildings.

  • Step 9 would be optional extensions to the light rail network in Fresno and the county-level heavy rail service.

See, I told you it was ambitious! Btw, the length of the test track as proposed here would be around 176 miles.

UPDATE by Robert: There is a meeting happening right now in Fresno about this topic. It's at the Central Valley Business Incubator, 1630 E. Shaw Ave, #163 next to the Old Spaghetti Factory by Fresno State.


Robert Cruickshank said...

Interesting concepts as always. It definitely sounds like the Fresno alignment is key, and I agree that getting out there early is to everyone's benefit.

I don't agree about Castle Airport being of much use to us on the Monterey Bay - folks either use the Monterey Peninsula Airport for connections to major hubs at SFO, LAX, or DEN; or use San José Airport.

Rafael said...

Thx for the update you added, though the heads-up may come too late for our readers.

As far as Castle Airport goes, I was referring to a future situation in which HSR service from Gilroy to a passenger terminal inside that airport was up and running, in addition to rapid rail between Monterey and Gilroy. Right now, the idea would of course be a non-starter.

Anonymous said...

San Jose can barely maintain anything more than an international fight to Mexico and few transcontinental. What analysis leads you to believe that Merced could? SFO is looking to clear smaller flights to HSR to open more space for international flights.

I doubt there is a use for commercial air service at Castle. If there was, why isn't it already happening at Fresno?

Clem said...

Rafael, some great ideas here.

One detail: you'll need a minimum ~6000 m curve radius in Fresno to allow trains to pass through at 220 mph. Right now there's at least one < 1500 m curve in your map. That would definitely be a show-stopper.

I'm not so sure HSR should run through all these downtowns in the central valley unless absolutely necessary. It does maximize the amount of grade separation and concrete pouring, which satisfies the controlling stakeholders of the project, but it's not a particularly good idea for keeping down construction costs and noise. 220 mph is LOUD. In addition, doing eminent domain in a dense urban area to straighten curves is not going to be cheap.

Where in Europe do they run trains at 300+ km/h through urban cores? I'm not aware of a single example. For instance, look at Valence, Avignon, Aix, etc. all these HSR stations were built a few km outside of the downtown area.

Maybe they should leave the freight railroads alone and build an HSR bypass reasonably close to Fresno?

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 11:47pm -

Castle airport without HSR wouldn't be viable. However, with an HSR station physically inside the terminal, you could get from downtown San Jose to airport check-in in less than 40 minutes, during which time you can actually get something done. Getting to the check-in counters at SFO wouldn't be much quicker, thanks to BART. Even if you drive, it will take you about that long.

Wrt Fresno Yosemite airport, it will require some sort of rapid transit connection from the downtown HSR station or it will have a very hard time retaining any commercial service at all in the long run. Already, it is subject to noise regulations, though they may not be as severe as those at SJC.

Castle airport's primary role would be various types of air freight, including high speed cargo delivered on HSR tracks. Those cargo trainset could be tacked onto local and semi-local passenger trainsets during the day and operate autonomously, albeit at lower speeds, at night.

Commercial passenger service would be almost the cherry on top, but being able to operate 24/7 means budget airlines could offer flights to distant destinations,e.g. Hawaii, Asia, Australia, Europe either very early or very late in the day.

@ Clem -

thank you for reminding me about the curve radii. I think I've corrected those now, my focus had been on other aspects of the concept earlier.

Regarding noise at 220mph, that is indeed an issue - especially if the HSR tracks were elevated in Fresno. Sound walls might help, but your point is well taken: should trains run at such high speeds through any downtown areas anywhere at all?

The Japanese do it 186mph, but sound level is proportional to propulsion power, i.e. to the cube of velocity. In other words, 220mph is 65% louder than that video suggests. Aerodynamic and wheel-rail noise is also one of the reasons why JR East wasn't able to achieve the - admittedly very ambitious - goals set for its Fastech 360 development program.

Italy applies the diretissima approach, in which the main line is chosen to be as short as possible, which typically means through open countryside. Expensive detours have to be added into the downtown areas of each city that some subset of the high speed trains will have stop at. Given FRA's strict prohibition against mixing FRA-compliant and non-compliant rolling stock in the same tracks, it's not clear that Italy's approach would be very useful in California - you'd still need to find room for at least two dedicated tracks through downtown and fully grade separate them.

In the specific case of Fresno, there is the understandable additional desire to eliminate heavy freight traffic from the downtown area. Moving HSR out into the boonies would not achieve that nor would it serve the community particularly well. It's certainly an option of last resort, which gives CHSRA leverage in any negotiations on the subject. However, chances to make significant changes to railroad alignments only come around once a century, if that. At the very least, a comprehensive approach should be considered, as long as it does not delay the HSR effort. Fresno has had many years of time to get its planning ducks in a row on this and, it's not clear to me that it already has.

Rafael said...

@ Clem -

since you asked for an example from Europe, here's an ICE3 barreling through a station at 186mph. I'm not sure where the station is, though - it looks like it might be in a rural area.

Anonymous said...

"Given FRA's strict prohibition against mixing FRA-compliant and non-compliant rolling stock in the same tracks" HSR's operations plan wouldn't work AT ALL. It is based on the premise of mixed traffic operation on the SF-San Jose segment and the Fullerton-Anaheim-Irvine segment. In the former case, it might be possible to convince Caltrain to use only non-compliant trains, which means no Dumbarton corridor, and no SF-Gilroy, SF-Monterey, or Coast Daylight service. In the latter case, it would basically be impossible. Some regulatory solution is going to have to be found that is not complete separation the way FTA-regulated light rail and heavy rail systems have, or even strict time-separation. Some solution is going to have to be found, although it's probably, at least at first, going to involve mixing compliant and non-compliant passenger trains on dedicated (but not grade separated) passenger tracks.

Jarrett Mullen said...

Good lord, that Rural Loop proposal is really scaring me. It looks like the plan for mixed use development to bookend the highway as if it was a normal street. This is not to mention the transit would be strangled in the middle of the highway monster. I really hope this project never gets built.

Clem said...


The ICE3 video you posted is typical of any HSR station; I'm not sure what it shows. It might as well be TGV Haute-Picardie, nicknamed the "turnip station" for its location in the fields...

You said:

> should trains run at such high speeds through any downtown areas anywhere at all?

I think the correct answer is NO.

The construction companies will be very happy to do it for us, though, under a green-washed theory of providing better transit connectivity to urban cores.

In reality, what it does for them and their political sponsors on the HSR board and up and down the state government power structure (never mind us riders & taxpayers) is greatly multiply the amount of engineering and construction work. Just imagine all the grade separations and elevated trackways necessary to run all those tracks through the Fresno funnel... a civil engineer's wet dream, and a politician's ideal for job creation, culminating in a dramatic ribbon-cutting ceremony.

And then you could do a whole new round of construction to build sound walls, solving a problem that didn't have to exist, by conducting endless community outreach and design iteration on the aesthetic treatment of the sound walls. The possibilities are limitless.

The people who claim California HSR will be a financial boondoggle may actually be proven right, if it is built in the same sub-optimal way as other recent transit projects, which seem to have placed contractor welfare above public utility. The fact that it's run by the usual suspects does not bode well!

Or maybe I'm just feeling a bit cynical today.

Anonymous said...

Ray Lahood just got chosen as Transportation Secy. And he's a Republican...

Granted he's a moderate Republican but that still really pisses me off -- in my opinion, transportation policy in this country is was too far off to the right (even for moderates). I was hoping for someone like that Earl guy from Oregon or Scuttlebutt. This pisses me off.

Here's what they've said about him

The moderate Republican has broken with his party over Amtrak funding, voting yes last summer to expand passenger rail service. In 2005, he told the Peoria Journal-Star that "we've got a good Amtrak system in Illinois and I don't think we want to destroy it by talking about privatization." In 2006, he received a 66 percent rating from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, a major transportation construction lobby. He also voted in favor of the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008, a bill to promote increased public transportation use that garnered string bi-partisan support. Other than that, we know very little.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 1:52pm -

I covered the issue of the "Rule of Special Applicability" in part 1.

Grade separation against road traffic is a different matter. Bullet trains can and do travel on slow sections that are not fully grade separated in France, though inevitably, there have been accidents.

FRA's mixed traffic rule relates primarily to train-on-train crash safety. However, as the Chatsworth Metrolink crash at a relative speed of just 60mph tragically proved just recently, relying only on high buff strengths and drivers actually paying attention to signals is grossly inadequate for passenger rail operations. That is why HR 2095 mandates - finally - the installation of interoperable PTC systems by 2015. Freight operators had long resisted this move, citing cost.

@ Jarrett Mullen -

urban and transportation planners sometimes overreach in their grandiose plans, e.g. Robert Moses in New York. Community activist Majora Carter has been trying to get the city and state of New York to decommission a stretch of the hardly-used Sheridan freeway in the South Bronx for a number of years now. In Moses' day, entire neighborhoods were flattened to make way for freeways, paragons of progress. Those days may be gone, but mistakes made today will still be felt many decades into the future.

HSR has a smaller physical footprint and, full grade separation means it will not bisect towns and countryside quite as severely as traditional railroads do. However, the visual and especially, the noise impact are non-negligible. It's better than alternative modes for moving people over large distances, but some individuals do still pay a price for the greater good.

There's a difference between considering options and marketing them.

Anonymous said...

The station the ICE video showed was Montabaur,7.821407&spn=0.026619,0.051928&t=h&z=14

It's on the Frankfurt-Koln NBS. Very few trains stop there.

Anonymous said...

I always assumed the trains would slow down to 100-110mph in town. They arent going thru there at 220mph are they? I know they want intown stations but maby the bypass should be HSR.but that does not solve Fresnos freight train issuses. I also like the idea of Hsr using BNSF as much as possible to speed up construction as it seems more open and less built up with the exception of fresno.

Anonymous said...

Clem - Keep in mind that Fresno is much larger than Avignon - the former has almost half a million people while the latter has less than 100,000. The closest European example for running through the center of intermediate cities is the original AVE line. That runs through "downtown" Puertollano (pop is only 50,000) and downtown Cordoba (pop is over 300,000, much closer to Fresno). There are nonstop trains through those cities, but I don't know what the track speed is. I suspect it is well under 186 mph.

Definitely the French model is to bypass all cities and serve the city center using connections to conventional tracks. Even Lyon has a bypass. Heck, even Paris has a bypass of sorts! (from LGV PSE to LGV Nord via CDG)

The only defense I can think of for CHSRA is the following:

First, France has a well-developed passenger rail system even without the LGVs. It makes sense to build a bypass and allow non-express TGVs to serve intermediate cities using conventional rail tracks. In California, no such system exists. Cities like Fresno and Bakersfield are not going to go without service, nor should their service be 15 miles removed from the city. So you're going to have to build new tracks to the city center anyway. Building slower tracks to the center plus high speed bypass tracks may not be cheaper than just building high speed tracks through the center.

Second, SF-LA is longer than most LGV lines. In the CHSRA business plan, most trains will not be SF-SJ-LA "super-expresses." Hence many people traveling from SF to LA will be riding trains making stops in places like Fresno and Bakersfield. If these trains have to divert onto low speed tracks for 15-20 miles at each of the stops and make the station stop as well, SF-LA running times may become unacceptably long for all of the non-super-express trains.

All that being said, I could maybe see a case for building through Fresno and possibly through Bakersfield. Everything else they should try to bypass for sure. If they get put on the BNSF north of Fresno instead of the UP, this could be a blessing in disguise.

Andrew said...

Good stuff.

Rather off topic, but I think I've yet to see anything focusing on what will happen with LA Union Station. One thing I'm curious about is the run-through tracks, are they still only planning two of them? With the Surfliner, two Metrolink lines, then HSR and potentially an LAX express/Slauson line, it doesn't seem like there will be enough capacity.

Anonymous said...

I think Fresno has big dreams but no real money for all this. One options is for HSR and BNSF to share row all the way and just north of Fresno cut over and use UP
with BNSF sharing rails and HST on an aerial thru town. south HSR and BNSF would be back on BN ROW..Now I dont thing UP would come around easy but they might.or be forced to.At least that will get rid of one railroad row thru town and the one that goes thru all the new areas to boot

無名 - wu ming said...

another reason to start with the central valley test track is that it's in one of the most economically depressed parts of the state.

Anonymous said...

This Fresno plan is great, but unless Fresno or the freight companies somehow can foot the bill, I don't see this happening. This is Fresno's problem, not the rest of the state's problem. Lets just bypass Fresno and let them build a light rail line from the station into downtown.

Andrew - I'm also wondering what the status of the Union Station run-through tracks are. I was hoping this could be built as part of the stimulus plan.

However, I don't think the run-through tracks were ever intended to accomadat HSR. They are only to be used for Amtrak/Metrolink. The HSR lines would be built on an elevated platform above the existing platforms. I'm sure they already know about the run-through tracks plan and hopefully have an alternate approach from the south in mind.

Andrew said...


Yes, but it doesn't seem to make sense to build two elevated rail structures over the 101 freeway (three if you count the new Gold line tracks). I thought now that HSR has the green light, they might amend the run-through tracks plan. But since as you pointed out, HSR platforms will be on a level built above the existing ones, maybe it will have to be a separate structure for the southern approach.

Anonymous said...

Rafael, this is kind of irrelevant to this post, and I don't know if you've adressed this already, but there's a significant concern I just thought of with HSR rolling stock: level boarding. It's not going to be feasible to use wheelchair lifts on HSR trains as it has the potential to mess up the timekeeping pretty badly (look at Caltrain). But most HSR rolling stock is designed for a floor height at the door that is higher than the de-facto standard of 17 inches used in the West, so it'll be harder to use an off the shelf unit, except maybe a Talgo. Definitely single-level TGVs and Shinkansen rolling stock are just not going to work here.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:42am -

wheelchair access does not appear to be a major problem for HSR operations anywhere in the world.

If the platform height needs to be increased to enable the use of off-the-shelf trains, then that is what will happen. Caltrain has already included raising its platforms in its Caltrain 2025 plan.