Saturday, March 28, 2009

Union Pacific Speaks

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

Never let it be said that I don't give HSR deniers credit where it is due. Morris Brown has obtained a copy of a letter from Union Pacific to the California High Speed Rail Authority laying out their stance on HSR implementation between San Francisco and Gilroy. Their overall attitude is one of "we own the corridor, either through easements or outright ownership, and you're going to implement HSR according to our guidelines."

The SF-Gilroy corridor is broken up into three pieces:

1. SF to Santa Clara, owned outright by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCBJPB - set up in 1991 to run Caltrain) but where UP has an easement to run freight

2. Santa Clara to Lick, "a point approximately three miles south of Diridon Station" - UP "owns and has primary operating rights on Main Track Number 1".

3. Lick to Gilroy (and ultimately to Moorpark in Ventura County), owned wholly by the Union Pacific Railroad.

UP's stance as laid out in the letter is, in essence and going in reverse order:

3: No way in hell will HSR trains use the UP ROW between Lick and Gilroy. Their specific language is:

Union Pacific has no intention of allowing or permitting the Authority to build or operate the HSR within Union Pacific's right of way southward of Lick. The Authority should take this into account as part of the EIR/EIS for the San Francisco — San Jose segment.

2: Depending on how freight trains are mitigated, UP is fine with HSR between Santa Clara and Lick - but UP will be the final arbiter of what this means. Their specific language is:

The Authority must not undertake any action that interferes with Union Pacific's ownership and operation of Main Track No. I without prior approval from Union Pacific and the commuter agencies identified above. All adverse impacts must be mitigated to Union Pacific's satisfaction.

1: UP expects to not only maintain, but potentially increase, freight service along the Caltrain corridor, insists that its easement be respected, and that HSR be built to not adversely affect freight operations in any possible form.

Specifically, UP demands the following, which is most directly applicable to the Caltrain corridor:

(i) Slow speed freight trains and high-speed trains are incompatible on the same
tracks at any time, including cross-overs. Union Pacific requires overhead clearance of 23 feet 6 inches, which is higher than the Authority contemplates for its electrical system. The Authority must provide grade-separated cross-overs for freight trains at necessary locations. The Authority must not contemplate operation of freight trains on any HSR trackage at any time (and vice-versa). If necessary, completely separate freight trackage must be provided. HSR must comply with all applicable FRA regulations.

As far as I can tell what UP is saying is that at least one track has to be set up for freight trains, and if that requires a totally separate track, so be it - CHSRA and PCJPB are UP's bitch when it comes to making changes on the Caltrain corridor.

What does this mean for the battle over HSR implementation on the Peninsula? Brandon in San Diego lays it out like this:

any proposal to retain freight's ability with any necessary tunneling having the intent to accomodate HSR + Caltrain at the expense of an above ground alignment accomodating freight...
...will mean:
1) more costly tunneling efforts (bigger/higher, longer due to softer grade changes, and/or... ventilation) or
2) the tunneling to accomodate Caltrain + freight cannot happen at all.

If so on #2, that means Caltrain may remain above ground and possibly at-grade where they already are... and our friendly peninsula bergs are SOL.

I think that's a pretty good summation. Ultimately I think this deals a pretty significant blow to the tunnel concept as being floated by the Peninsula cities, who have floated a concept of a two-track tunnel. Unless the tunnel has four tracks and is large enough to accommodate UP freight, it's not going to meet UP's standards. Another option is to build a two-track tunnel and let UP continue operating freight trains on the surface above the tunnel, which is an absurd solution and also makes it impossible for cities to sell "air rights" to develop land above the tunnel to pay for the tunnel's costs, as some have proposed.

The only other option for Peninsula cities would be to pursue federal law that would limit UP's negotiating power. UP notes that their freight operations in this region are regulated by the federal Surface Transportation Board. Congress and the White House could, if they wanted to, pursue new laws and regulations pushing or even forcing freight railroads to accommodate HSR and other passenger rail even if they're reluctant to do so.

I am not sure we should expect that to happen. President Obama has shown hardly any desire to piss off large corporations like UP, and Congress has shown little interest in modernizing railroad law. If the federal government is serious about implementing HSR, they're going to need to attend to both, and the dispute over the Caltrain corridor may be a good place to start. But I am not confident it will actually happen.


Anonymous said...

UP and Caltrain tracks and row should be left exactly as they are then and the hsr should be squeezed in along side in an elevated structure that looks like the bart structures. they don't take up any room.

bossyman15 said...

(ii) (i)Mitigation measures for the HSR may include construction of new freighttrackage for Union Pacific. Such trackage must meet Union Pacific's construction and operation standards, and must be compliant with FRA and California Public Utilities Commission applicable standards.

Guess UP were hopping for brand new shiny tracks for them to drive on.
Nothing wrong with that i guess.

Clem said...

Their overall attitude is one of "we own the corridor, either through easements or outright ownership, and you're going to implement HSR according to our guidelines."

No, they said quite distinctly "you're not going to implement HSR at all".

Two thoughts:

(1) it's a going-in position for negotiations from which they hope to extract a hefty sum

(2) it's the last, best chance to do HSR correctly via Dumbarton + Altamont, leaving the lower peninsula and UPRR alone.

Personally, I'll root for (2).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the UP letter.

I suppose UP shareholders would sue Mgmt if UP rolled over and didn't hold a critical leg of HSR hostage. I would.

At the end of the day, if Federal legislation is needed, VP Joe "Amtrack" Biden would probably be an advocate -- provided UP approves.

Really, is the resistance by UP a justification to re-open already settled issues about routes and service? If so then this thing will never be built - ever.

Alex M. said...

So is UP saying that using their ROW from San Jose Diridon to Gilroy is completely off? Doesn't that put all of the Pacheco plans in the toilet?

David S said...

Does anyone know exactly how many customers UPRR has along caltrain? It seems like every available industrial yard among the corridor is being snapped up and converted to townhomes. I don't know anything about the rest of the route (where, at least to my eye there's room for both trains) but it just doesn't seem like there's enough heavy industry left on the corridor to support an increase in freight rail. I could be way off on that, of course.

Morris Brown said...

@anonymous 7:47
@Alex M.

A key issue in the lawsuit is UP refusing to allow CHSRA to use their ROW from San Jose to Gilroy. Indeed, UP wrote the Authority before the EIR was certified, yet the Authority went ahead and certified the EIR anyway.

So it would appear that a different route from San Jose to Gilroy will have to be found, which would necessitate a new EIR for that section. A different way to the Central Valley (Rafael's alternative or via the Dumbarton corridor over the Bay using the Altamont pass could be alternatives.

Anonymous said...

There is plenty of room in the 101 row to gilroy just put it there. Caltrans, which already has a rail division can certainly be convinced to make it available.

Anonymous said...

There is alo far less housing near the 101 to gilroy than there is along the up row.

David S said...

Just read the whole letter and it answers most of my previous comment. Actually, its pretty damning, and seems quite strongly worded if it was just intended to be a starting point for negotiations.

Honestly at this point I think its going to take some federal negotiation. FRA and other agencies are going to need to issue statements of support for these kinds of trains. I personally think that a run through in San Jose is quite important to the project at a whole, but the paramount concern needs to be SF to LA in the alloted time. A spur to SJ would be fine, provided that either caltrain or HSR could still make the trip in under an hour.

I just hope that by the time I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy a house around here, this'll be settled so that I can be close to whatever the eventual solution is.

Anonymous said...

After examining via google flyiover - does everyone realize how much room there is to get hsr from san jose to giroy? not only is there more than enough room down the 101 most of the way from gilroy to 280 but there is alow row already in the median of both 85 and 17 for the light rail and that row has room for more. and could also be utilized by using elevated. There would be far less neighborhood objection to using freeway row than you're gonna get from trying to convince UP and then convince the neighborhoods that UP runs through - much closer to homes than the various freeway rows. I'm mean it is just such an obvious solution that the only thing I can suspect is that people are really hoping for a ( not gonna happen) altamont route to be forced. Whatever difficulties might be involved with utilizing freeway row in the south bay would pale in comparison to the issues you're gonna run into/already running into with neighbors and UP not to mention the eastbay neighbhoroods, bridge construction and environmentalists, you're gonna run into if we go back to altamont. I mean for real folks, do a flyover with google over all that 101/85/87/17 row down there and see that even with room for more lanes there is ample row. It's so obvious What's really goin on? Anytime something so obvious is overlooked or denied one has to think somethings up.

David S said...

jim -

Its possible that nothing "is up" and that UP is just genuinely concerned about their business and liability.

Anonymous said...

Please note: between SF and SJ, UP has freight rights as well as EXCLUSIVE intercity passenger rail travel. Nothing is happening on the Caltrain corridor without UP's say-so.

This is a major oversight. Inexcusable really. If it hadn't surfaced now, thanks to a bunch of bloggers, UP could have pulled it out at a much later date and we would really have been over a barrel. It's time for a new, more professional, team to take over.

Anonymous said...

@david - I have no doubt that UP is concerned about their own behind. My point is that why are we dicking around with them to begin with when there is freeway row to utilize. whatever the costs and obstacles might be involved with freeway row and caltrans, they would pale in comparison to the costs of "mitigating" for UP and uppity neighbors. Tell the caltrain neighborhoods and union pacific where to get off and head over to caltrans and make a deal. remember caltrans is a state agency and not a private company - If the state of california wasnt to use freeway row for high speed rail, then the state of california can use freeway row for high speed rail. there isn't any "caltrans won't allow it" because We are caltrans and they do what sacramento says.

Anonymous said...

"wants to use" (typo)

Anonymous said...

and i know spokker will get mad at me not putting all my thoughts into one post instead of multuple posts - but you know, with freeway row - even where one thinks "there isn't room" there is. There wasn't room on the side of 280 for bart out of daly city either but they sure crammed it right in there didn't they? and when you go to socal - and see what they do with concrete down there - its amazing. they arent shy about using concrete to cram as much crap as they can into freeway rows. freeways on top of freeways, freewas in the middle of freeways freeways that have gone from two lanes to like 20 lanes. it can be done and it gets everyone off hsr's back. and while they're at it screw stopping on the penninsula.

Andrew Bogan said...


"Its possible that nothing "is up" and that UP is just genuinely concerned about their business and liability."

It's very unlikely they are genuinely concerned about their business since this route is a very marginal one for UP's overall revenues, as we have discussed here before. The liability issue however is quite serious. If a HSR to freight collision ever did occur, every lawyer this side of the Mississippi would be suing the private company operating the freight train and all levels of government would be pointing fingers, talking about inadequate regulation, and letting the courts pass out money to victims.

UP is correct to be extremely concerned about the possible liability, even if it is a very small probability of such an accident ever occurring.

UP says in #13:

"The construction and operation of HSR in the San Francisco to San Jose right of way
must not cause increased operating costs or operating inefficiencies for Union Pacific. The Authority must assume Union Pacific's liability exposure and risk arising from current and future freight operations in the same corridor as the HSR. The Authority should fully study means to indemnify and insure Union Pacific against all such liability or risk, including liability to HSR patrons."

I think UP is correct on this point and the State should indemnify them, so long as they follow applicable regulations with regard to maintenance and safety. Accidents do happen, and one like this could literally put a freight railway out of business someday.

Also note the first sentence of #13 above: it sounds to me like UP does indeed expect HSR to be constructed and operated from SF to SJ.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I have to disagree here, Clem. It is a strongly worded letter. However, UP has not come out and said "no fucking way" to HSR on the SF-SJ portion of the route. They DID say so on the SJ-Gilroy route, but this goes back to CHSRA's contention that "next to" the ROW is effectively the same as "using" the ROW. Whether they can pull that off without a new EIR is of course an open question.

I read through this letter several times and as far as I can tell UP is setting strict conditions - but NOT saying "you can't do this" along the Caltrain corridor. Because if THAT was their position, Clem, wouldn't that invalidate the ENTIRE corridor, meaning no way to get to SF without a totally new ROW?

I guess I also totally fail to see how Dumbarton and Altamont is "doing HSR right" unless the third largest city in the state should be bypassed by HSR completely for reasons that remain quite unclear to me. For the SF-LA spine, Pacheco remains by far the superior option.

I do agree, Clem, with your point #1, that UP is probably looking to get some sort of financial deal here - point #13 in the UP letter can certainly be read that way.

Ultimately I think David S has it right - there's going to need to be a federal solution to all this. Which is fine - I agree with Yonah Freemark that we need a centralized HSR strategy for the USA anyway. Hopefully this dispute can help spur the development of such a federal policy.

HSR is too important to let UP dictate terms.

Clem said...

@Robert, sorry, I evidently didn't make myself clear enough.

They are saying no way for HSR south of SJ. As Andrew pointed out, their wording is open to HSR on the peninsula.

Also, nobody has ever suggested leaving San Jose out of the HSR system. An Altamont alignment does not preclude San Jose from being served by HSR, although it does add a few minutes of travel time between SJ and LA.

For the SF-LA spine, Pacheco remains by far the superior option.

If you had said SJ-LA spine, I might agree. Since you said SF-LA, I don't agree: on that city pair it's basically a wash.

And if people don't like my using the word Altamont, here's to you from a high speed rail advocate: Altamont, Altamont, Altamont!

Andrew Bogan said...

Looking at points 11 and 13, it seems clear that UP expects HSR to run on the Caltrain right of way from SF to SJ, but not from Lick (a few miles south of Diridon Station) to Gilroy, which is UP owned at this time. Seems like some of Jim's alternative right of way possibilities could work on that stretch, likely with some sections of eminent domain, but I'm not all that familiar with that area.

Question: Does anyone know the case law in eminent domain of rail right of ways?

Seems like if push came to shove, CHSRA might be able to simply seize the UP right of way to Gilroy and pay them for it using their eminent domain powers, presumably with some ceded usage rights for UP freight trains on the route.

It even seems vaguely possible that UP might want to have that section eminent domained, so as to get paid for it, but likely still be able to use it. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

@andrew - just take a look at google maps satellite view and you can see that the 101 row has far more room and far less interference whereas the UP row to the west of it is very narrow and goes very close to homes and has multiple grade crossings.

Anonymous said...

and of course one can't rule out the possibility that both UP and HSR know exaclty what they are doing - putting on this little show for sole purpose of sucking up as much money as they can to scratch each others backs.--- what? you thought that doesn't happen?

Anonymous said...

Clem, in your opinion what would an adequately mitigated solution look like on on the Caltrain row from SF to SJ?

Also, if the answer is leaving freight at grade and putting HSR on elevated structures all the way from SF to SJ, then why wouldn't it make more sense to put those elevated structures over 101? Directly hooking up to SFO and SJC in the process (rather than sort of hooking up to the airports via Millbrae and Diridon). Avoid all the mitigations that will be required around schools, hospitals, neighborhoods, environmental justice, etc. but still hit all the major cities they wanted to hit for ridership needs. Seems alot cleaner and less contentious.

Bay Area Resident said...

Very interesting post. From what I have heard in the south bay area, which is the Sunnyvale - Diridon - Tamien area, is the two tracking option which you think is a bad idea is in play. This is where the freight lines of UP stay where they are which is through those very curvy sections of San Jose and Santa Clara, and the tunneling or alternative routes are for HSR only. Apparently not every train is going to stop at Diridon (can anybody confirm this?), and if so, schlepping through that entire 60mph section in San Jose is a bad idea- so some alternatives are in play. But most of this is coming from the city councils plus city DOTs so what do they know. I was told this alternative route story recently and felt like I was fighting too hard against this train because my real concern is mostly route through neighborhoods and apparently an alternative is on the table that will not route through neighborhoods. or maybe the whole thing is a ploy.

As far as the freight lines- nobody believes there will ever be major amts of freight traffic on those tracks. Nobody.

Bay Area Resident said...

that area they are calling Lick is referred to as Edenvale. They were told at their community meeting that UP was denying ROW and the CHSRA was going to consider procuring 100 ft of land, 60' away from the current ROW. So they were going to take a bunch of houses down there, which upset a lot of people. It gets pretty rural pretty fast though, so hopefully not too many people will be in that situation. BAR

Spokker said...

"And if people don't like my using the word Altamont, here's to you from a high speed rail advocate: Altamont, Altamont, Altamont!"

Well then maybe you should have whipped out your wallet then. Your fault for not acting soon enough.

Spokker said...

I couldn't care less whether it's Altamont or Pacheco if it gets the goddamn thing built.

I can't wait to go through this song and dance again with whoever ends up opposing an Altamont option. You can't build a fucking extension to your house without somebody bitching that it impedes their standard of living.

Brandon in California said...

I don't think the UPRR letter or their position is a fatal flaw. I don't fault them for it or the way it was worded, which was direct. They are a publicly held company and they must represent the interests of their owners and stockholders.

That said, HSR can still occur in the penninsula corridor and they are open to talking with CHSRA about how that may happen.

However, worst case scenario could involve Federal action or an overture to UPRR to be more complicit... however, much political power could be at stake.. and could create an unwanted precedence for similar instances elsewhere. Therefore, "could" would be 'remote'.

However remote this is... one option would be the Feds somehow endorsing or creating the opportunity for the State of California or CHSRA to claim the necessary ROW via eminent domain. I'd suspect one argument behind that would be that there is no freight service currently and current land uses no longer require RR access.

Perhaps a new law could be introduced that terminates freight rights if the corridor is not used over a period of time... or something like that. Maybe an overture about making a law is all that is needed?

However, that brings me to this...

There was a past UPRR or Port of SF comment to CHSRA concerning the existing tunnels to the Port being too short to run freight auto-trailers and that if freight is to be accomodated in the corridor that taller tunnels should be included.

If that were to happen... that makes the corridor more viable as a freight corridor... and thus creates greater competition for the ROW and could/would undermine possible Federal asssitance on the matter.

To the CHSRA... however limited my knowledge is on this matter... I'd recommend not including taller tunnels if they do not have to b/c they expand freights ability to be in the corridor and freight is obviously not compatible with HSR... per their own letter.


But in defense of CHSRA about this being a blunder... those in the rail industry are quite familiar with the parameters and the issues. The public does not b/c it is not sexy enough to be in the newspapers or hit the nightly tv news.


And, that's kinda how people like Joseph Vranich DO get in the news... b/c the issue appears controversial; however limited or accurate it is.


All that said, it again seems the greatest derailing of pennisula plans are those involving Caltrain. Assuming HSR, Caltrain and frieght are to be accomodated... it seems like freight and Caltrain are paired together; which means Caltrain likely remains unchanged where-ever tunnels are necessary for CHSRA; particularly where those tunnels need to be longer or taller or have higher grade changes and there is limited ROW width.

The letter really is a greater blow to nimby's concerned about elevated guideways or wanting Caltrain to be grade-separated too.... b/c after all... HSR is coming... and that is not changing short of State legislative action to change the parameters of the project.

Robert Cruickshank said...

@Clem, I think you're right that this poses challenges to HSR between San Jose and Gilroy. I need to get in touch with CHSRA staff about their specific plans in that area since I wasn't able to attend any of the scoping meetings in South County last week. I have heard the same thing that BAR is saying about CHSRA purchasing land next to the UP ROW. For much of the journey between Diridon and Gilroy that's viable, but there are several places where that'll mean some houses get eminent domained.

Rafael said...

The way I read the tea leaves on this is:

a) UPRR demands that HSR to run on dedicated tracks between south SF and Gilroy. That was the plan anyhow.

b) UPRR wants fully grade separated access to its remaining freight spurs. On the SF peninsula, most customers are east of the main line, so running both HSR tracks west of the Caltrain local/UPRR tracks (FFSS configuration) between Oakdale Ave in SF and Rdwood City + Sunnyvale to Lick would limit the additional effort to a small number of cases.

In some of those, UPRR and the customer might agree to cash compensation for shutting down the spur, which might be cheaper than the alternative.

c) UPRR want to retain dispatch rights on its own ROW south of San Jose Diridon, i.e. it won't allow its freight trains to be delayed on account of passenger train traffic. Obtaining new ROW next to the existing one will be difficult within San Jose but much less so south of the city.

The EIR/EIS process differentiates "corridors", which extend at least several hundred feet to either side of the preferred route, from specific alignments within that corridor. Therefore, switching from the UPRR ROW to land next to 101 would probably not invalidate the program EIR/EIS, though significant discussion at the project-level EIR/EIS would be required.

d) UPRR does not want to be liable for costs arising from a derailment that fouls adjacent HSR tracks. That's an understandable but much more controversial demand. Note that HR 2095 requires the installation of interoperable positive train control, by 2015, on busy corridors and all that carry hazardous materials.

Also, HSR should come with CCTV and possibly microphones that could be used to detect a derailed truck on a freight car even before the freight train engineer is aware of it. This information would be instantly available to the traffic controller on the corridor, presumably a Caltrain employee.

e) Switching to Altamont, especially to Altamont-via-Dumbarton, is no panacea, since UPRR owns the ROWs in the East Bay as well. That means there is no easy way to get from Newark to Niles, the east end of Fremont or Union City. BART will now definitely use the WPML ROW it purchased years ago to implement the Warm Springs extension as the first section of VTA's objective of bringing BART to Silicon Valley. That means CHSRA's original idea of running HSR tracks between Niles and CA-262 to reach San Jose is now infeasible. Fortunately, the I-880 median is still available - for now.

A subway alignment under all of CA-262 - a city street - with a tunnel across to Calaveras Road is now the best bet, but getting to it from Dumbarton requires a causeway right through the still-active salt ponds, skirting the DENWR. Unless UPRR were prepared to sell its Altamont ROW, chances are HSR would have to avoid it.

Conversely, if a new bridge across or tunnel under Dumbarton is rejected, running trains around the south bay efficiently is possible only with run-through tracks. That means a south bay station at SantaClara/SJC, not SJ Diridon. In addition, the detour via Palmdale might have to be sacrificed in order to meet the 2h42m express line haul target for SF-LA.

Bottom line: switching to Altamont after all would by now require very significant changes to the route, relative to the alternatives that were studied and ultimately rejected in favor of Pacheco. That is why CHSRA should stick with plan A but also instruct AECOM to study a modified route between Livermore and Redwood City in a parallel effort.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

"UP and Caltrain tracks and row should be left exactly as they are [...]"

that would mean only the HSR tracks get grade separated and they'd still be on an ugly aerial that emits a lot of noise over a wide area. It would be no more than a quick-and-dirty implementation, except at existing road overpasses.

CHSRA has looked at stacking tracks using aerials elsewhere along the route, but not in the SF peninsula.

Clem said...

in your opinion what would an adequately mitigated solution look like on on the Caltrain row from SF to SJ?

It all depends on what you mean by "adequately", doesn't it? I think the solution is to remain at grade as much as possible, with a preference for low retained fill (a.k.a. Berlin Wall) where road underpasses are required. There is no need to stack the tracks since there is plenty of width available.

Andrew Bogan said...

@Bay Area Resident

Your posts above are very helpful and informative with regard to the possibilities in and south of San Jose. Thanks for sharing the info, it is much appreciated.

Tony D. said...

M.B. 8:31,
"So it would appear that a different route from San Jose to Gilroy will have to be found."

Not necessarily. Reading between the lines, it really appears that UPRR wants the same situation existing between SJ/Gilroy that it has between SJ/SF: not actually owning the line but having trackage rights and liability concerns met. So in the future, it will be either CHSRA buying the line from SJ/Gilroy, or obtaining it via eminent domain. The letter is a classic "Show me the money!" proposition. (see Major League Baseball and Orioles owner Peter Angelos "refusal" to allow the Montreal Expos to relocate to Washington D.C.)

As for UPRR between San Jose/Gilroy: from roughly Capitol Expwy. to Metcalf Road in south SJ, UPRR runs along the western edge of Monterey Hwy (SR 82). There are various area's of residential (apartment complex's, trailer parks, single-family homes) along with open space/commercial (old Capitol drive-in, Hitachi site/Great Oaks Blvd.) to the west. To accomodate HSR in the corridor, they may be some eminent domain of residential. But, it would probably be a lot easier to go east into Montery Hwy. itself. The current Hwy. is a wide 6-lane roadway with wide median/shoulders to boot. At least from Capitol Expwy south to Metcalf Rd., I can see a scenario where Monterey is narrowed and reduced to 4-lanes to accomodate a wider HSR/UPRR corridor to the west. It can be done.

UPRR south of Metcalf Rd. to Gilroy: Wide open, rural; no problem.

Anonymous said...

Okay i have to say it again because its so obvious. hello, there is plenty of room in the freeway rows of the south bay to get hsr from san jose to gilroy with a number of options 280-101 85-101 87-85-101 again - look at google and see what the UP tracks pass by and all the grade crossing versus the 101 row ( not the cnter- but along the west side for most of the way) and if the caltrain row from sf-sj is too problematic, then an elevated solution up the 101 for that stretch would be much less of a fight and probably cheaper than mitigation/UP and neighbors) Am i the only one who sees this? why so hell bent on the caltrain row anyway when you can use the 101 and still get the sam transfer points with caltrain anyway. and constructionwouldn't be any more disruptive than adding another lane of freway would be and we put up with that all the time.e

Morris Brown said...


You write:

a) UPRR demands that HSR to run on dedicated tracks between south SF and Gilroy. That was the plan anyhow.

There is currently being circulated an MOU between the PCJCB and the Authority, that apparently is going to be approved by the PCJCB (CalTrain) in early April.

From page 5 of that document please note the following:

D. Ultimate configuration of the Caltrain corridor will be a four-track, grade-separated high speed rail system, with mixed traffic from Caltrain commuter rail and the high speed train service capable of operation on all four track to enable Caltrain to achieve servie levels of no less than eight trains per hour in each direction. In some places the corridor may consist of more than four tracks.

So this MOU certainly says that HSR not only will have access to the corridor, but (at least in stretches) access to any of the 4 tracks. That harly makes them dedicated.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

an MOU is not a final contract, both sides are looking to keep all their options open for now. I wouldn't read those paragraphs as a change of intent. It's just lawyers practicing the art of dotting i's and crossing t's.

The plan is and always has been quad-tracking all the way, the wording simply a legal out in case that proves impossible at some location(s). My guess is they're thinking of tunnel 1 up near SF 4th & King, where freeway supports are currently blocking the construction of two additional tracks. This would be well north of the portion of the ROW shared with UPRR.

UPRR's current position is that it doesn't want HSR trains running on the same tracks as its own trains. What it fails to acknowledge is that HR 2095 requires it to install interoperable PTC equipment in its locomotives by 2015. Once that is in place, there is no good reason not to share track. Freight railroads don't want to pay for PTC and more importantly, don't want to host more passenger traffic at Amtrak's low trackage rates. That, more than anything else, is behind UPRR's position.

In practice, the only reason why HSR trains would ever venture onto the tracks used by Caltrain locals and UPRR is an off-design condition (e.g. track maintenance) that makes the HSR track unavailable for some number of days or weeks.

For its part, Caltrain might want to maintain its "baby bullet" service, but as far as I can tell its objective for electrification + switch to EMUs is to speed up the locals to achieve the same SF-SJ line haul time. Or, to put it another way: to expand "baby bullet" line haul times to all stations.

pscl said...

Pushing a 101 alignment is futile. This option has been eliminated in the EIR/EIS for good reasons.

While sections of the ROW in the south bay is plenty wide enough, the same cannot be said for the mid-penisula stretches of US101. In some places I don't believe there is even enough room to install supports for an elevated structure, let alone an at-grade corridor.

And if you think that the Caltrain grade-crossings are a problem, imagine threading HSR under or over the several dozens preexisting bridges along 101. And while 2- or even 3-stacked ROW's have been done elsewhere (e.g. Harbor Transitway in LA), the politics and environment are not the same. The peninsula is not the industrial waste land that is south central LA.

Add to this extended lane closures during construction, the 101 ROW is a non-starter.

I refer you to p310 of Vol 2 of the BA-Central Valley EIR/EIS


yeson1a said...

The pensuila is a wasteland...arrogant pigs that only think of the next dollar..dont worry we are still going build HST..since you moved nest to railroad tracks you can move again .

Anonymous said...

yeson1a - be careful you're going to be grounded, and have your allowance taken away for a week for that kind of language. Does your mommy know you're on the computer at 10:30 on a school night?

Mark Drury said...

All this talk about San Jose getting bypassed by the Altamont route is nonsense. San Jose residents could very easily take Caltrain to Redwood City and catch HSR there for destination (note the singular) south. Or better yet simply run HSR to San Jose (assuming UP ever agrees) and let CalTrain continue service north to San Francisco -- I still haven't seen a reasonable argument against this proposal.

-- Mark D.

Anonymous said...

@Mark the argument against it is that san franciscans voted to have hsr in san francisco, not san jose

Bay Area Resident said...

SF is served with the Altamont route through Redwood City. The altamont alignment comes down through the east bay/Altamont, and goes through RWC and up into SF. San Jose and Oakland are spur routes off of Altamont.

I notice today Palo Alto is signing the Amicus brief in support of the lawsuit. They tried to work with CHSRA and feel snubbed basically. Not that Amicus briefs do anything.

Anonymous said...

The problem is the bay crossing - environmentalists will never allow another bay crossing. not ever.

Alon Levy said...

BAR, Altamont-via-Dumbarton means that Menlo Park and the towns to its north will get HSR. You clearly believe that HSR will blight the Peninsula, so why do you support a route that will export the problem from Palo Alto to other towns?

Mark, the advantage of HSR over flying is that it gets you from city center to city center. If you make people get off at San Jose, they might as well fly to SFO, which actually gets them closer to San Francisco. The TGV has come under a lot of criticism for serving some cities with stations far away from the center; in one case the station was in the middle of a beet field. It could get away with this only because the main cities did get stations in central locations.

Bay Area Resident said...

Aron Levy, for what its worth I am not a huge fan of Altamont. I would prefer it to the Pacheco route chosen, but that is all. The primary advantage to Altamont as I see it is it keeps the east bay people in the east bay vs. route them through the peninsula ecosystem for no reason, and it is a better environmental option. My primary issue with these Diridon proposals from the beginning is they refuse to analyze anything but existing rail corridors which is not appropriate in the bay area where at least Caltrain is more of a streetcar. My preferred solution would have been HSR on the peninsula at and around 101 (or the marshlands if there was anyway to procure new land), with a secondary line from Sacramento to SF through the east bay, again on the freeways. None of these options do anything for Diridon station in SJ, so they were not considered.

Bay Area Resident said...

Environmentalists heavily preferred the Altamont option over Pacheco. They only reluctantly supported Pacheco.

High Tech Crossings said...

For its part, Caltrain might want to maintain its "baby bullet" service, but as far as I can tell its objective for electrification + switch to EMUs is to speed up the locals to achieve the same SF-SJ line haul time. Or, to put it another way: to expand "baby bullet" line haul times to all stations.

Rafael, please don't perpetuate this myth that local EMUs will be as fast as the express "Baby Bullet" service, even the current diesel service. I've heard both TBT and Caltrain engineers talk about speeded up EMU local service being as fast as the Baby Bullet, but it's simply not true. Any engineer worth their salt knows it. Of course, an electified express Baby Bullet would be even faster than the diesel express. BART is crippled by its all-local service and inability to run expresses, so why should Caltrain be similarly constrained to all-local service?

resident said...

Alon, BS. If HSR terminates in SJ, they get off at Diridon, they walk 50 ft to a Caltrain connectino if they want to get all the way to SF.

BTW, Tell me what a family does once they get to the 'city center' of SJ, PA or MP. Do you even know the landscape of these cities? Do they rollout sleeping bags in the station? No, they have to get another mode of transportation (likely rental cars although there aren't any in those so called 'city centers'), to get where they actually need to go.

SJ, PA, RC, MV - are NOT Europe where public transportation takes you everwhere and anywhere you need to go.

Its just another CHSRA disinformation tactic that claims you need to get a "city center" in the bay area. There's no such thing. Actually you'd be far better off in terms of easy access to public transportation modes on the ground - if you actually terminated your trip in one of the airports - the only places around here where you actually have real access to rental cars or public transport connectivity (although good luck with trying to catch a bus to about anywhere - more likely you're going to be needing a taxi to get to your end point - and those are at the airports too.

Spokker said...

"You clearly believe that HSR will blight the Peninsula, so why do you support a route that will export the problem from Palo Alto to other towns?"

No matter how they choose to route HSR to SF, some people are going to be pissed.

"The primary advantage to Altamont as I see it is it keeps the east bay people in the east bay vs. route them through the peninsula"

Heh heh heh...

Alon Levy said...

BAR: the 101 has a lot of other issues that were discussed on Clem's blog, like tight curves and insufficient space for tracks. It boils down to no HSR, HSR along Caltrain, or a second trans-Bay tube. The last option is feasible, but really expensive, and may not even increase ridership - Silicon Valley is a more popular destination than the East Bay.

Diridon is a narcissistic Moses wannabe. But that doesn't make Diridon Station a bad choice of alignment.

Resident: usually, said family would take a taxi. The advantage of HSR over airports is that in one alternative the taxi takes ten minutes to get to the hotel and in another it takes forty. Stopping at San Jose essentially forces an additional transfer. The anti-HSR coalition's proposal to have HSR continue north of San Jose on shared track at Baby Bullet speed at least gets people to where they want to go, if not at the speed or frequency they would like.

Bay Area Resident said...

You know spokker, the minute I wrote that about the east bay I figured somebody here would take it out of context. Alas the predictability of you all. For what its worth this tactic of trying to divide N Ca voters into thinking those that are against it are rich Nimbys isn't really working, since the low income areas of San Jose are also getting hit. Here is what I said,

The primary advantage to Altamont as I see it is it keeps the east bay people in the east bay vs. route them through the peninsula ecosystem for no reason,

Emphasis on *NO REASON* which is the obvious important point here which you deliberately removed. the environmentalists also had this issue with Pacheco. It routes a whole group of people who have no reason to even want to be on the SF peninsula, THROUGH the SF peninsula since SJ is a hub. That is the issue with it.

Anonymous said...

I prefer to leave the train alone and go with the current plan BUT- there is room on the 101 - if you use and eleavted bart type of structure along one side - and you with that you can straighten out curves by having it cross over and back - on the tighter curves. It most certainly can be done and would be no more complicated than the freeway construction that takes place in cali everyday. It CAN be done lets be clear on that - what one has to decide is what will cost more - an aerial structure up 101, or fighting with and paying off UP and MP and PA

Anonymous said...

With the recent noises about reregulating the railroads, I wouldn't lay bets on UP's side. They could easily cave on this, tomorrow, if threatened with 'Either support HSR on our terms, or Congress will reregulate freight prices'.

Reregulating freight prices would actually kill the railroad, and it's seriously under discussion -- if UPRR management is anything other than complete morons, they will throw anything and everything into the pot as a sweetener to avoid it.

I think UP is simply angling to get shiny new all-freight-no-passenger tracks. They will compromise if that is not feasible -- if they get caught jeopardizing HSR, the political backlash would slaughter them, and I think they know it.

Anonymous said...

"Question: Does anyone know the case law in eminent domain of rail right of ways? "

It's a mess, but Washington State apparently threatened to use it against the BNSF ROW north of Seattle (now used for Sounder and Cascades), and BNSF settled. Washington State wouldn't have threatened if there hadn't been a viable case that they could.


Anonymous said...

Rafael wrote: "The way I read the tea leaves on this is:"

And this matches my reading.

One note:
"c) UPRR want to retain dispatch rights on its own ROW south of San Jose Diridon, i.e. it won't allow its freight trains to be delayed on account of passenger train traffic."

UPRR has a federal complaint against it for delaying passenger trains for freight traffic. They are already required to delay their freight trains for passenger traffic; they're just breaking the law.

Given that, I think it is accurate to say that they're trying to get away with something here. If they don't behave themselves they will eventually face a government crackdown.