Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Is the State Legislature Going to Screw Up HSR?

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

The California State Legislature isn't exactly the most popular group of people these days. As the state budget crisis worsens - and as California's bond rating takes another hit - Californians are losing what little patience they had for their legislators, who remain unable to produce a budget solution. It's not for lack of trying, as the 2/3rds rule and Republican obstinacy has produced the ongoing delays and deficits. But it reflects poorly on the legislators, who are facing some of the lowest approval ratings ever.

It doesn't help matters when the Legislature proposes something that is manifestly stupid, wasteful, and unnecessary. And that is what has happened regarding high speed rail on the peninsula, where the legislature has caved to Peninsula NIMBYs at the possible cost of $1 billion in stimulus funds:

An obscure sentence inserted deep in a massive state budget bill could delay construction of the proposed high-speed rail route from San Jose to San Francisco, potentially costing the region more than $1 billion in federal stimulus money, high-speed rail planners said Monday.

The language requires that as a condition of getting $139 million next year from the state budget to hire staff and engineering firms, the state High Speed Rail Authority must study "alternative alignments" to the route along the Caltrain tracks, approved by the authority last July.

Though the bill has passed both chambers of the state Legislature, its fate is uncertain because it remains part of the bigger state budget imbroglio.

This is ridiculous. The CHSRA already studied the Peninsula corridor, already studied the Altamont alignment, and already concluded that the Caltrain corridor is the best solution. They spent 11 years on these studies. Neither the Legislature nor the Peninsula NIMBYs have any place calling for another study just because they didn't like the outcome of the first one.

This is especially troubling given the financial implications of the Legislature's meddling:

On Monday, Rod Diridon, a former Santa Clara County supervisor who sits on the high-speed rail board, said that restudying the route could jeopardize federal stimulus money that requires eligible projects have construction started by September 2012.

"If it were to stay in, only our corridor in the whole state would be penalized, and all the federal stimulus money would go to Southern California," Diridon said.

The San Jose-to-San Francisco route will be seeking $1.3 billion in stimulus money, Diridon said. Two other proposed high-speed-rail routes near Los Angeles also will be seeking similar amounts.

The Peninsula NIMBYs would be perfectly happy with this outcome - their goal is to kill the HSR project in their own backyard, and have shown no regard for fiscal responsibility (such as their proposal of an extremely costly tunnel without offering any method of paying for it).

But it would cost the state as much as $1 billion in HSR stimulus, which translates into thousands of jobs and a not insignificant boost to the local economy on the Peninsula, which in turn means rising tax receipts in Sacramento. I'm not surprised at the Peninsula NIMBYs for not caring about any of this. I am surprised at the Legislature for being incredibly reckless by approving this proposal.

Sen. Joe Simitian, who represents Palo Alto, understands as much, as he denied responsibility for this moronic provision:

Adding to the drama Monday was that neither Diridon nor any other member of the high-speed rail board said they knew who wrote the provision requiring the extra study.

"We're all mystified. The whole board was caught by surprise how the language got in the bill," Diridon said.

State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto — whose constituents are most upset by the route — said he's not the author.

"That's not my language. I didn't have anything to do with it," he said.

Political skulduggery may not be to blame. In the rush to finish the budget, legislative staff members crafted the new requirement based on what Peninsula residents who testified at hearings and senators seemed to want, said Brian Annis, transportation budget consultant on the state Senate budget committee.

"We were incorporating many different comments and issues that staff and legislators were involved in," Annis said. "As far as the specific language, we drafted something we thought was workable."

So the problem seems to be in the Senate Budget Committee. There are a LOT of Senators on that committee - including one familiar name:

Senator Alan Lowenthal.

Now granted, we don't know whether he was responsible for this provision. But it would not surprise me if he were. Senator Lowenthal has been working for the last year to gut the HSR project. My assessment has always been that he wants to turn the HSR project into a vehicle to deliver funds to commuter rail projects in Southern California, and that he has no commitment to the statewide project, and certainly not to the route voters approved in Prop 1A at the November 2008 election.

Was he behind the provision in question that would undermine the HSR project AND cost California $1 billion in HSR stimulus? We don't know, but someone in the Legislature was, and they're currently trying to keep quiet. These things don't just wind up in the legislation by accident. California deserves to know who in the State Senate believes that a few NIMBYs should have the power to upend 11 years of studies and cost the state $1 billion in stimulus funding.

It's also time for the Legislature to stop meddling with the HSR project. The CHSRA exists to provide clear leadership and project management that isn't tied down by the vicissitudes - and, frankly, the incompetence - of the state legislature, which has shown itself incapable of offering anything positive toward the HSR project. The legislature needs to take advantage of the budget delay by stripping this provision from the bill, and ensuring that the legislature remains committed to the HSR project as approved by voters in November.


Richard Mlynarik said...

Quit the BS: CHSRA NOT "study the Altamont alignment" -- not any further than determining what would generate the most outsized cash flow into the pockets of the engineering and construction mafia, that is.

What's best for BART (= PBQD+Bechtel) is best for California. And if you doubt us, we have a study by PBQD that "studies" it. Just like the precisely analogous Quentin Kopp-fronted BART extension to Millbrae "studied" and summarily eliminated any "alternative" that wasn't a BART pork-fest.

We rely on the very best studies those who'll directly profit from the outcome can come up with.

Rafael said...

Off-topic: video of new conference by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Secr. of Transportation Ray LaHood formally announcing the extension of the official California HSR corridor to include Las Vegas.

If the SF peninsula doesn't want $1 billion in inward federal investment, I'm sure there are plenty of other parts of the state that would gladly take it.

Karl (In Santa Cruz) said...

Given the cost of "alternate alignments" might it not be worthwhile to consider a new alignment on a route that is obtained - perhaps right through the middle of Atherton, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto - via use of eminent domain acquisition of a new ROW, of adequate width and without curves. One could almost do a straight shot, using Middlefield as a very rough guide, between Redwood City and Mountain View.

Can there be NIMBYs if we take away their back yards?

I'm saying this, of course, in jest, maybe. But it is long past time to slap down those anti-environmentalists who are all about "me" rather than about "us".

By-the-way, I find it astounding that the authorship of a proposed law is in doubt - perhaps we ought to chip in and buy a free copy of subversion or GIT for the legislature so that they can track changes.

lyqwyd said...

I've gone back and forth about which alignment was preferable, Altamont vs. Pacheco. I was originally firmly in favor of Altamont, but came to accept that Pacheco was most likely to be picked for political reasons and is an acceptable alternative.

From what I understand these are the advantages of Altamont:

1) ~ $2 billion cheaper.
2) serves about a million more people.
3) avoids a large park/wilderness preserve.
4) avoids a fairly vacant area of california, therefore no possibility of inducing sprawl development.
5) makes the connection to sacramento much cheaper, and the trips from Sac to SJ/SF cheaper to build, and they will also be much faster.

Here are the advantages of Pacheco
1) about 10 minutes faster to San Jose
2) San Jose is a through station, allowing for more operational flexibility

I don't consider the caltrain ROW an advantage of Pacheco since it doesn't seem to save any money.

Some of my assumptions may be incorrect, if anybody has more info can they provide it?

Are there any other advantages/ disadvantages to either alignment?

Given the advantages I presented I'm again in favor of Altamont, and if it will actually save $2 billion it would still be better to spend an extra billion to save 2.

Thoughts? Comments?

Matt said...

Your government at work.

Rafael said...

@ Richard -

alright, I'll bite. Which alignment would allow express HSR trains to from Dumbarton to past Livermore at 110-125mph?

For starters, there's the whole Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge issue. Then there's Cargill Salt and UPRR, which is no mood to cede any of its ROW in the East Bay. Then there's Quarry Lakes, which provide drinking water for 100,000.

Then, there's adamant opposition from Fremont, Pleasanton and Livermore. The existing BART aerial through Union City precludes running HSR above ground.

Throw in crossing the active Hayward and Calaveras faults plus a tunnel through at least the East Bay hills and it's clear - to me, at least - that Altamont entails at least as many problems as running tracks through Palo Alto.

Last not least, the cities of San Francisco and San Jose both insist on being included in the main line. Neither wants a fork in Fremont.

Finally, a starter line via Altamont would mean laying track between Manteca and Chowchilla in phase 1.

I'm not being flip here: Altamont isn't a realistic alternative for express HSR until and unless the technical, political and financial issues that entails are resolved.

You've made excellent, constructive contributions to the debate on the SF Transbay Terminal's train box and the San Bruno curve, among others. However, your incessant foaming at the mouth about a supposed construction mafia is getting pretty old.

I urge you to apply your considerable technical talent to explaining to the rest of us the nuts and bolts of how Altamont could be constructed. You'd be most welcome to publish the technical details here or, if you prefer, we'd encourage our readers to visit a new blog of your own on this subject (cp. Clem's excellent Caltrain-HSR Compatibility Blog).

TomW said...

"Study" is a vague word... one way they could study it would be to review the literature on the subject.

Bay Area Resident said...

ROFL to all that thought this wouldn't happen. Now, here's the thing. Forget Altamont, it won't satisfy the time demands of prop 1A and it means starting from scratch. The answer is to run the train ALONG 101 for the peninsula portion. 101 is the "alternative route" that is required. And quit the BS that it can't be achieved, it can or else this train shuts down completely- period, end of story.

Unknown said...

Hire a college intern to review the 11 years of documents. Then say, "Okay we studied it, Pacheco is the way to go."

I don't see the problem?

Bay Area Resident said...

hey Matt, this is indeed your government at work- things like urban renewal went out with the 60s, obviously the voters who feel hoodwinked by Prop 1A are going to block this train in their backyards. HELLOOOOO

lyqwyd said...


HSR on 101: not gonna happen, sorry you happen next to Caltrain ROW, but it's just not going to happen on 101. It's way cheaper to expand Caltrain to 4 tracks than to build an elevated structure on 101.

If you think it's gonna be 101 or nothing then I disagree with you. 1 of us will be right, one will be wrong, only time will tell.

denier said...

ROFL too.

A few choice quotes from Robert..

"It's also time for the Legislature to stop meddling with the HSR project." Sorry Robert, the legislature isn't "MEDDLING" its their responsibility to provide oversight, enforce accountability, and to make sure it gets done right. Sorry YOU don't like it - but voters DID. If you don't like legislative oversight, you shouldn't have supported 1A

"something that is manifestly stupid, wasteful, and unnecessary" ... describes CHSR perfectly.

Too bad you spent so much time summarily dismissing the 3 nimby's who live along the tracks - gee Robert - could it be that the politicians are hearing from a few more concerned citizens than that?

Next stop: ballot to repeal 1A and the WHOLE THING gets shut down.

Face it, HSR on the Peninsula makes no sense, was a huge political miscalculation. The logical (and cost effective) answer is to terminate in SJ, then provide caltrain connection from SJ to SF. Gee a simple walk across a platform would be SO DISRUPTIVE to riders (NOT).

Think about the huge favor you'd be doing to the entirety of the project by eliminating the Peninsula opposition.

As it stands, it sounds like the new head of the authority is from socal, and no doubt will jump with both feet in to how to focus the startup effort in socal - and what does that serve? it serves to stir up a whole bunch of powerful anti-HSR sentiment from those locals besides - so CHSRA's going to be stirring up the hornets all over the place.

And you think the legislature has had an earful from the Peninsula? just wait til the socal nimby's get in on the act.

pass the popcorn

Anonymous said...

The statement I read on the website clearly states the priorities are still ana-lax bfd-mcd and sjc-sfc as being first in line for construction funds.

NONIMBYS said...

NO NADIA/SUSAN/TOM you are the 3big mouths and DREAM all you want
there will be HSR up that 120year old tracks..YOU moved next to a railroad..move if you dont like it!
NEXT step construction!!!

Spokker said...

So the mysterious language in the budget works and Altamont is studied. It is determined that Altamont is now the preferred alignment. Now what happens when residents along that corridor complain and the legislature inserts more mysterious budget provisions that yet more studying is required?

Is Altamont like a magical YIMBY land? I have to imagine residents in those communities don't want the train either.

James Fujita said...

build the segment from Los Angeles to Anaheim first. or build the segment from Bakersfield to San Jose first. or build the segment from Los Angeles to Merced first. or even Bakersfield to Merced.

build anything other than the San Jose to San Francisco segment.

would it really be that bad to let the San Francisco Peninsula stew for a while? would it really be that bad to get started on construction in an area that actually wants it?

let the Peninsula NIMBYs whine and complain.

give the rest of the state a chance to move forward.

Morris Brown said...

Robert, Robert, Robert.

You spin what you want to, but you certainly leave out much.

To begin with, the implication that stimulus funds would be jeopardized by studying Altamont again is nonsense.

As you well know, Morshed told the Authority, that San Jose to SF could not qualify for stimulus funds, because that route couldn't meet the time constraints imposed by the Feds for stimulus funding.

Then none other than Diridon, made the Authority's board, over rule its executive director, and pass a resolution stating it would qualify. In fact Diridon had to revise the language in a second board meeting, so that it suited his liking.

If anything, applying for stimulus funds for the SF to SJ segment, might well jeopardize funds for any of the corridor, as the Feds are sure to understand they are being played for fools, and they are sure not to like that.

The final request for these funds, is to be funneled through CalTrans, and the last I heard only shovel ready small pieces, such as the San Bruno grade crossing were considered proper requests for stimulus funds in the SF to SJ section.

Diridon, as usual, is waging a one man show, to protect San Jose and his Taj Mahal, image of a new station there as a monument to himself.

Robert, why would you possibly think Lowenthal would care about Altamont vs. Pacheco? His interests live down south.

As many on this blog have stated, Altamont is a far superior route, by all accounts. San Jose interests hate this option; they hate it with such passion, that they were going to oppose the whole project if Pacheco was not chosen.

Of, course Robert hates Altamont, because living in Monterey would hardly make for convenient access to HSR, unless it goes Pacheco.

As for me, The project is a huge mistake. A mistake California cannot afford to make. Right now, with the State's budget problems, the project would have been killed, except for the new twist it has taken. It is not about a passenger rail project. It is about bringing Federal money into the State. It is about creating jobs. It is a disaster.

Bay Area Resident said...

I don't live near the Caltrain ROW. My concern is the ruined quality of life for all the small towns here with a roaring train overhead.

When are you train wonks going to realize that the citizens of the peninsula and south bay feel very PUT OUT by this project. If prop 1A had already decided that this 220mph train was going to run on the CALTRAIN TRACKS they should have called it out in the vote. Of course they did not do that because they wanted to hide the reality and trick the voters which worked for about 3 weeks. Now there is hell to pay because the peninsula isn't willing to put HSR through every bedroom community here. Its just that simple. I'm telling you, you better come up with a plan to route this train along the freeways on the peninsula, that is the ONLY ACCEPTABLE above ground solution.

political_i said...

State government, one of the dumbest forms of it. State government looks to cut essential services and pay for roads and only roads.

Time to rid ourselves of the 2/3rds rule, screw this study crap, if it's been studied before, it's killing a dead horse and does the assembly really have the authority to do that sort of stuff? These delays are becoming very costly and each side is blaming each other. Quit the dilly dallying and do what's right for the people, not your party! There reputations are already in the toilet.

Bay Area Resident said...

they can't build san jose to Merced unless Pacheco is determined, because an Altamont route would enter San Jose differently, and maybe bypass Diridon station entirely. If they want to build socal first, they need to halt building both the SF->SJ segment and the SJ-Merced segment.

NONIMBYS said...

its not 220MPH on Caltrain .Stop the nimby lies!

Robert Cruickshank said...

Spokker is right. There are plenty of Morris Browns living in Pleasanton and Fremont and Hayward waiting to pounce if the CHSRA were to somehow shift the route their way. In fact, they'd be even more angry because they'd see themselves as a dumping ground for something wealthy folks couldn't abide in their own communities.

Sen. Lowenthal's motive for backing this move (if that is what he's doing) would be that by undermining the Peninsula segment at every turn, he can weaken the whole project and make it more likely that the funds will go to SoCal commuter rail alone, which is all he cares about.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

Robert Cruickshank has always said he doesn't much care about Pacheco vs. Altamont, just that that the issue be put to bed so construction of the line can begin as soon as practicable. He's always approached this project as a boon to the whole state. Monterey isn't exactly around the corner from Gilroy, his interests aren't parochial.

After years of political wrangling, CHSRA came down in favor of Pacheco. I'm no fan of that decision, but I do respect it because voters explicitly endorsed it in November. At this point, Altamont being studied as a high speed commuter overlay, so it's not off the radar entirely and could morph into a plan B if one is needed.

@ BAR -

you know full well no-one ever suggested HSR trains would run at 220mph in the SF peninsula. The target cruise speed for express trains in that section is 125mph, with a few slow sections imposed by relatively sharp turns in the legacy Caltrain ROW. Average speed for express HSR trains will be about 100mph between SF and SJ.

As for construction priority, I agree with you that securing a ROW for SJ Diridon-Gilroy ought to be given higher priority. In the meantime, stimulus funding can be intelligently invested in Anaheim-LA US-Palmdale and Merced-Bakersfield.

There is no reason to hold the entire CHSRA budget hostage to a strictly regional dispute. The portion of the $139 million required for project-level planning of the SoCal and CV sections of the starter line should be granted asap.

The world does not revolve around the SF peninsula.

Spokker said...

Does Pacheco have anything going for it? Does Altamont have anything not going for it?

Sebastian B. said...

Clem's latest post about San Mateo makes it clear that the actual cost of this project is probably HIGHLY underestimated given all the complexities involved in having HSR with Caltrain and freight.

I agree with James Fujita - is it really so bad to let them take the lead down south?

That way, our state doesn't lose the stimulus dollars - HSR can get going, and in the meantime, we can actually get some rules from the FRA so we can settle once and for all exactly how many tracks will be needed, whether we need a safety wall, etc.

Let L.A. take the lead - at least it gets going!

It seems like it is the best thing to do for the whole project. If this segment is rushed, it just gives the NIMBYs more fuel.

friendly advice said...

I have a better idea. Make it abundantly clear to the Peninsula that this is it for infrastructure. No HSR? No Caltrain electrification. No 101 improvements. No BART. No Samtrans bailout. They have enough tax base to sort their own troubles out. Let all new dollars go into routing HSR up the East Bay and under a tunnel to San Francisco, so that SF, Oakland AND San Jose are served, and expand and improve the existing BART network, Capitol Corridor, ACE and Valley Transit service and connectivity.

I'm not as sure politically how to neuter Sen. Lowenthal. Perhaps commit to building the Inland Empire routing to San Diego first, thereby buying off the entire LA Metro except the Long Beach area?

Robert Cruickshank said...

The SF-SJ segment isn't being "rushed" - it is proceeding exactly as has been planned for some time. A full program level EIR is underway and overall construction would not start until 2012 or 2013. However, to be eligible for stimulus funds, certain segments that are further along in the planning process, like San Carlos, could be started in 2011 or early 2012. It would be foolish and wasteful to miss that opportunity because of a bunch of NIMBYs. They've had 11 years to make their voice heard.

And just to be clear, my perspective on Altamont vs. Pacheco is as it has always been - make a choice and stick with it. The CHSRA chose Pacheco, so I support Pacheco. I've always argued that both options were about equal - both have pros, both have cons, and neither stands out.

I will say that Pacheco does have the added benefit of including the state's 3rd largest city (San Jose), and it would be truly stupid to not include San Jose if you could manage it. And there were proposals to include San Jose in an Altamont alignment, which is why I remained open to Altamont during the evaluation period last year.

But the decision is done. It's Pacheco. At some point we have to move on - just like the Obama vs. Hillary primary battle last year. They each had their good and bad points, but the goal (for Democrats) was to win, so once a nominee had been picked, it wasn't a time to whine that Hillary lost but a time to ensure Obama won.

The goal here is to build high speed rail. Since neither Altamont nor Pacheco had a fatal flaw that made the other option vastly superior, the right move was to back the chosen alignment and be done with it.

That is the right move now more than ever due to the billions in stimulus money on the table. There is no good reason to give up that money just because some people are unhappy over the alignment choice. At this point anyone still trying to fight for Altamont is de facto working to undermine the financial viability of the HSR project.

lyqwyd said...

Can anybody detail the issues that might be encountered with the Altamont alignment?

I'm personally OK to the idea of reopening the Altamont option as long as it doesn't delay significantly, or jeopardize, the HSR project. If we start in Socal & central valley will we still have time to investigate without any major problems/delays to the overall project?

There would certainly be the same NIMBY issues with Fremont and maybe some other cities. Would it jeopardize prop 1As validity to change the Bay Area approach?

Sebastian B. said...

Just to be clear - I don't care whether it is Altamont or Pacheco either - I just want it done.

I guess my real frustration lies with the FRA. How do we get them to grow a pair and just tell us what their requirements are going to be?

How can HSR write a business plan with actual costs if they don't even know what laws are going to govern their operations? If they need a safety wall or dedicated tracks- then that will have a cost and we need to know that now so we can plan accordingly. Their lack of information is debilitating this project.

Any ideas on how to wake up the FRA?!

timote said...

"would it really be that bad to let the San Francisco Peninsula stew for a while? would it really be that bad to get started on construction in an area that actually wants it?"

Actually, I think it might be - we need as many "shovel-ready", or close to it, projects as possible - north, south, central - wherever. If we remove the Bay Area from getting any funds for a while, it will result in less funds for California HSR in general, and a lengthening of the project. Parallel efforts are your friend - serial efforts take too long.

So question for folks - what does that language mean? "the state High Speed Rail Authority must study "alternative alignments" to the route along the Caltrain tracks". Personally that doesn't look like Altamont vs Pacheco to me per se - it looks like a EB vs Peninsula routing discussion. You could go Pacheco -> SJ -> Oakland -> SF (new tube) or Altamont -> Y to Oakland/SF and to SJ or Altamont -> Y to upper peninsula/SF or SJ. What do people think this language actually means to study?

BAR, Morris Brown, denier, et. al - Someday in the future I'll be riding HSR down the great state of California and I'll be thinking of you. You can only stand in the way of the tidal wave for so long before you get washed away, and that will be a wonderful day.

Spokker said...

"would it really be that bad to let the San Francisco Peninsula stew for a while? would it really be that bad to get started on construction in an area that actually wants it?"

The only reason there isn't any NIMBY drama coming out of other parts of the state is because focus hasn't shifted from the Peninsula yet. When Anaheim starts getting more coverage the narrow 1.5 mile stretch of track there is going to be hotly contested.

I ride through there often and they are building houses right up against the track as we speak (they are almost done). If an above ground option is chosen, whoever happens to move into those houses is going to flip.

Alon Levy said...

Let all new dollars go into routing HSR up the East Bay and under a tunnel to San Francisco, so that SF, Oakland AND San Jose are served

If you use a second tube, then Altamont becomes far superior to Pacheco in every way. Such a route would eliminate all of the main draws of Pacheco over Altamont - San Jose, Silicon Valley, the Caltrain corridor, shorter LA-SF runtime - with the exception of San Jose. The routing would be as complex and involve as many aerials over highways, and average speed may actually be lower, since going through Pacheco means spending less time in the Central Valley cruising at 220 mph.

Conversely, Altamont's advantages will be magnified if CAHSR bags Caltrain in favor of Oakland. The SF-Sacramento runtime would be at its shortest, and if HSR speeds could get to 400 km/h territory, it would make SF-Portland and SF-Seattle time competitive with air, which no other route would. There would be no construction through protected areas. NIMBYism in Fremont and Union City would become a non-issue (though it would still be a problem in Pleasanton and Livermore).

Clem said...

via use of eminent domain acquisition of a new ROW, of adequate width and without curves.

The only little problem with this argument is that the Caltrain ROW does have adequate width, and many curves can be fixed. There are certainly trouble spots, but no outright show-stoppers.

Speaking of inadequate width and too many curves...

The answer is to run the train ALONG 101 for the peninsula portion.

There's a nice example of inadequate width and too many curves.

pass the popcorn

Delicious, ain't it?

Spokker said...

Hey Clem, since the Altamont vs. Pacheco debate is close to being reopened, a post on your blog about it would be interesting. I understand you are an Altamont supporter and I'd like to see it analyzed in the same way the Peninsula is being analyzed.

If you have time of course.

Rafael said...

@ Sebastian B. -

one reason CHSRA wants to build a test track in the Central Valley is precisely so FRA can write the rules required for safe operation at speeds in excess of 150mph. In fact, FRA had already begun to draft just such rules for the Florida HSR project but shelved them when voters there got cold feet in 2004.

In addition, a test track is required to come up with a shortlist of pre-qualified HSR equipment vendors.

Nevertheless, it might be in California's interest to ask FRA for a senior liaison on their staff but funded by CHSRA and stationed in Sacramento. Similarly, a representative of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) should be deputized to the HSR project.

This way, federal and state regulators, CHSRA staff, domestic and foreign consultants, HSR vendors and railroad operators could all contribute their technical expertise to quickly resolve issues in drafting rules as and when they arise.

When appropriate, engineering departments of selected California universities could be asked to conduct specific R&D projects related to crash safety, lateral stability in crosswinds, signaling resilience, rail-wheel noise, tunnel boom, ride-through buffers at electrical substations, reliable ROW surveillance, emergency communications between railroad operators etc. There are up to $900 million in prop 1A(2008) for project-level planning and preliminary engineering efforts not tied to construction contracts.

timote said...

Alon -

"NIMBYism in Fremont and Union City would become a non-issue".

I presume you mean that these become a non-issue if you cut SJ out entirely and only go from Altamont -> Oakland -> SF. I doubt this is politically feasible, though.

Also, if Rafael is correct about UPRR tracks being a no-go in the EB, how do we propose getting from the Hayward hills to Oakland? Rafael has mentioned an unused line running next to BART, which is very interesting, but I presume we'll have a LOT of push-back from BART for the same reasons as UPRR - derailments, indemnity, etc.

So I wonder if Altamont through EB is technically MORE challenging than the peninsula...

lyqwyd said...

Clem, I second Spokker's request for an Altamont vs. Pacheco posting on your blog (if you have time of course).

I believe the bay area could still receive stimulus funds for HSR improvements, even if there was no HSR on the peninsula. The projects that are being targeted on the peninsula would apply just as much to Caltrain (since it will bring speeds up to a max of 125mph). Even if Altamont was ultimately chosen over Pacheco, it's very likely HSR would still run up the Peninsula from the Dumbarton bridge (although I personally would prefer the option that went through Oakland and across the bay in a second transbay tube).

looking on said...

Robert's comment that Pacheco is favored because it takes in San Jose whereas Altamont does not is bogus.

Altamont does not remove San Jose from access to HSR; it simply removes San Jose from being on the direct line, rather than on a spur.

Altamont, doesn't give CalTrain what they want, since if going Altamont via a bay crossing, they would not get grade crossings on all their line, but only through about Redwood City. Of, course, Altamont, as Rafael as suggested, could be accomplished via a SF - SJ ->Altamont routing as well. This would gain the objecting cities along the peninsula nothing.

The big winner if going Altamont, is Sacramento, which gains a usable route to SF, whereas via Pacheco is so much longer, it will be next to useless.

Comments like letting the peninsula stew, haven't thought about the end of the line, SF.

Brandon in California said...

Other than what's written in Robert's blog post, I have not reviewed the draft budget language outlining the necessary additional study effort. However, I interpretted, "Paper Tiger".

My immediate thought came close to what "TomW" wrote:

"Study" is a vague word... one way they could study it would be to review the literature on the subject..
However, I would employ a little more effort. Notable is that so far there has been no criteria specified. Rhetorically, what does 'study' mean? What type of action would the CHSRA Board be requested to complete after completing whatever effort they partake in? The word 'study' is vague and ambiguous.

But the magnitude of the implications is made more clear by what Rafael forwarded:

There is no reason to hold the entire CHSRA budget hostage to a strictly regional dispute. The portion of the $139 million required for project-level planning of the SoCal and CV sections of the starter line should be granted asap..

In other words, it's only a matter of time before the language is removed.

I will not loose sleep on this matter.

Spokker said...

By the way, why don't the Altamont supporters here align themselves with the NIMBYs on the Peninsula? Their goals overlap.

Tony D. said...

Just LOL to a lot of these posts! Didn't anyone read the last paragraph of the Mercury News article? Simply put, the "wording" could (or will) be removed later by either Terminator vetoing the bill (which he will) or parliamentary manuevers.

To all supporters of Pacheco Pass and HSR as currently planned, just sit back and chill out already!

Tony D. said...

Back to the peninsula, I'll throw this idea out again.

Let's just eliminate Caltrain altogether for a totally dedicated HSR right-of-way between SF/SJ. You can have 3-tracks for the entire route; two for HSR and one at-grade track for freight, with high-speed passing tracks at HSR stations in Millbrae (SFO) and Redwood City/PA for express trains. The money now going into Caltrain could be used to trench or tunnel HSR on the peninsula (or at least segments of).

A win win all around! Well, not really. Many on the peninsula will miss their Caltrain service, but hey...you can't have it all!

Tony D. said...

Last thing about the "wording." It does state "study alternate alignments" to the route along the Caltrain tracks. It doesn't read "along the peninsula" or "into the Bay Area." So by "alignment" they could be implying how it would be constructed along the Caltrain tracks: ie trench, tunnel, at-grade, aerial, etc.

Anyhow, it's probably all moot. The "wording" should be removed in due time.

Brian Stankievich said...

The wording is:

As part of the project-level design and environmental review activities, the authority shall analyze alternative alignments to that identified as the preferred alignment in the certified program Environmental Impact Report(EIR) for the San Francisco - San Jose corridor.

So it is about 101 or 280, not Altamont vs. Pacheco.

Karl (In Santa Cruz) said...

Wow, what a lot of sound and fury.

When I lived in San Francisco it did indeed seem that Hayword was sort of on the way to LA. But as seen from here in Santa Cruz, it would seem that I'd have to do a lot of backtracking to even get to the HSR and given that I may as well use my car.

Which brings me to my main point - in the long term we want a system that will drive our metropolitan shapes in certain ways:

1. We want to encourage dense rather than sparse residences and businesses. We want transit systems to discourage urban spraw.

2. We want to start protecting farmland (and wetlands and open space) by reducing the drive to turn them into shopping malls and condos.

3. We want transport systems that people actually use rather than driving.

When I look at the urban patterns of the SF bay (and Monterey Bay) areas I don't see that SF is the center. It is one center of several. (And, by the way, HSR does seem to be emulating BART by leaving Marin county in the dark.)

Personally if it meant HSR or no HSR I'd be willing to leave SF hang for a while and with have the HSR terminate in San Jose or Niles/Fremont if there could be a relatively fast feeder network that included SF and Oakland.

I see Sacramento as a high priority target for HSR - higher than SF. The Sacramento area is undergoing massive urban sprawl and we are losing a lot of farm land very quickly. Absent some major tectonic activity SF isn't going to get much geographic growth. I'd be willing to trade away SF as the SF Bay terminus if we got Sacramento and as long as we had a terminus in the east bay or in San Jose.

I know this is after-the-game quarterbacking.

When I was a student at UC Berkeley, BART was just being built. I did several maps around the station sites using a mix of walking, bicycling, bus, and other modes to generate lines (sort of like contour lines) showing how long it would take to get to the various stations.

It would be interesting to do that kind of exercise to see what kind of places would be well suited to be stations on HSR.

In any event, we gotta get this system nailed down and building. Otherwise we will forever be second guessing and arguing.

Rafael said...

@ timote -

running tracks up the I-880 median would be no cakewalk, but leveraging the old ROW next to BART would be even more difficult because it's hard to reach from I-880 at the southern end.

In case you're curious about where it runs, start at Van Euw Common in Fremont and follow it all the way to 3rd/Oak in Oakland. It crosses the BART ROW in Union City, San Leandro and near Fruitvale Station. I should also point out that parts of this old ROW have been asphalted or built over, which suggested they were abandoned some time ago.

Note that this route would be longer than I-880 but take passengers into downtown Hayward and enable transfers at Bayfair while preserving the freeway median between the San Mateo Bridge (CA-92) and the CA-238 connector to I-580.

YESONHSR said...

I agree with TonyD..the nimbys and media love drama and leaving all kinds of "horror" that HSR is never going to happen..IT IS no matter what that crowd thinks

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

I had previously suggested a route that would serve the south bay with an underground HSR station in Santa Clara (Caltrain and future BART station) instead of an above-ground one in San Jose Diridon in order to implement run-through tracks. The alignment would continue eastward in the I-880 median and then tunnel under CA-262 and Mission Peak to Calaveras Rd. to get out of Dodge.

This would avoid the construction of a new structure across the bay, avoid forking the starter line and minimize impacts on Fremont and optionally, Pleasanton and Livermore as well (via a station in-between these cities). However, it would require running HSR tracks through Palo Alto.

Future BART passengers would travel one additional stop to reach downtown San Jose. Long-distance commuters could also walk or catch connecting transit to employers further up the peninsula, inside the Golden Triangle or in either of the already-planned transit villages in Santa Clara and SJ Diridon station areas.

If, in addition, the HSR starter line were run through a new terminal building at Castle Airport, San Jose would someday have the option of closing SJC and redeveloping it. Between the land as such, its proximity to the Santa Clara transit hub and the elimination of blight along its approach paths, the real estate upside might well make up for the 40-minute train ride to Castle Airport, which would also serve Alameda county and the Central Valley.

flowmotion said...

@ Rafael - could you clarify what I880 median you are speaking about?

I'm looking at various locations and not seeing anything more than a breakdown lane.

Rafael said...

@ Brian Stankievich -

there is no available land in the 101 corridor. It's not clear to me where the tracks would go. Caltrans isn't going to sacrifice the carpool lanes. There are also plenty of overpasses but little or no scope for lowering the tracks to clear them: 101 is just feet above the Bay and there are numerous gravity-drained water conduits (creeks, storm drains, waste water pipes) that cross under the asphalt.

I-280 has quite a few gradient sections, though I'm not sure how steep they all are. Freeway engineers usually draw the line at 6%, but HSR trains can't handle more than 3.5%.

CHSRA looked at both options donkey's years ago and discarded them as technically infeasible.

Building a loooong causeway in the middle of the bay all the way from Alviso to Sierra Point (Brisbane) would theoretically be possible. This would avoid numerous issues in the SF peninsula and enable a fast, dead straight alignment but also bypass SFO. The really hard problems are the Saltmarsh Harvest mouse, an endangered species that lives in the abandoned salt ponds in the South Bay and, getting from Alviso to SJ Diridon.

Rafael said...

@ flowmotion -

I was referring to the alignment options CHSRA had studied about a decade ago, some of which leveraged I-880 to get from SJ to Fremont. It's possible the asphalt lobby has already usurped the land that was still available back then, at least in certain locations - it's been a while since I've driven on that freeway.

If the median is gone, tracks would have to run on an aerial structure above the fast lanes and fly over (!) existing freeway overpasses. Construction would be as technically challenging as for 101 and far more so than for the Caltrain ROW. However, the latter is politically challenging.

flowmotion said...

@ Rafeal - Yes, 880 was pretty much strained to the breaking-point during the dot-com boom and has been upgraded quite a bit over the last 10 years.

Incidentially, I believe it was largely done with local funding, so Praise Diridon.

Tony D. said...

BS 6:16,

Thanks for the clarification of the "wording." I was half right. Again, kick back Pacheco Pass supporters!

Going back to my "eliminate Caltrain as we know it" option: I would also add stations in either Sunnyvale/Santa Clara and the Morgan Hill area. You would have HSR from Gilroy to SF ONLY (no Caltrain) for quick, efficient service. Express bus service could be implemented on the peninsula to replace local Caltrain service (far too many stations anyway!) and also act as a feeder for the HSR stations.

In essence, Caltrain reborn into HSR commuter service, albeit with far less stations and true BULLET service!

Anonymous said...

To go 101 you will have to raise the overpasses. So what? - the whole idea behind the hsr is to pour concrete. So you can forget about any trenches - that was just propaganda to get 1A passed. The Peninsula is not going to get any tunnels; they are going to be saddled with an elevated which will be loathed.

Bechtel IS an invidious lot.

The more the State meddles with the hsr the better. Send all the money to Socal. No, better, send it all to Palmdale and leave the Peninsula alone.

flowmotion said...

@ Karl (In Santa Cruz) - Can we stop this nonsense about HSR having any affect on "urban sprawl" or "loss of farmland"? It's a train that takes you to Los Angeles, not any sort urban transit panacea.

Rafael said...

@ flowmotion -

are you saying LA isn't an urban transit panacea ;^)

The concept of transit villages is becoming more popular in the Bay Area and could catch on even in the CV, but only if gasoline becomes much more expensive. In plain English, only if gas taxes reach much higher levels while other taxes are cut to compensate.

Unfortunately, there is no political will to transition to a tax regime that penalizes commutes on the order of tens of miles each way. As long as owning a car and driving it everywhere remains dirt cheap, people will buy McMansions wherever the land is dirt cheap.

Alon Levy said...

Altamont does not remove San Jose from access to HSR; it simply removes San Jose from being on the direct line, rather than on a spur.

Yes, and this will hurt ridership, by reducing the frequency of service to each destination. The environmental impact statement shows that the effect of reduced frequency will more than offset the access to more destinations.

If CAHSR chooses Altamont, then it'll do well to go only to SF first, and include a spur to SJ only in phase 3, after the initial system has been in place for long enough to attract high ridership and support high frequencies of service to multiple destinations. Running trains every 12 minutes instead of 6 will not hurt ridership the way running them every 30 minutes instead of 15 will.

Robert Cruickshank said...

There's got to be some analysis in the 11 years of studies that explains succinctly why putting HSR down 101 or 280 is simply not feasible. That would go a long way toward shutting up the Peninsula NIMBYs.

Another good preemptive strike would be to start riling up NIMBYs in Pleasanton and Fremont. Tell them Palo Alto is going to dump HSR in their backyard.

Hell, we could probably do the same with folks out in Woodside and who live in the I-280 viewshed. They're not going to be too pleased about HSR down that corridor either.

Peninsula NIMBYs think they're the only NIMBYs in the state. Heh.

flowmotion said...

@ Rafael - Just for the record, I hate urban sprawl as much as anyone here, but (as we all know) HSR is primarily competiting with the airlines and will have minimal affect on local transit.

Incidentially, one of the biggest opportunities for "densification" in the Bay Area is sleepy downtown San Jose. So if the goal is to increase transit density, we would be remiss to bypass them in order to capture the office parks of Pleasanton via the Altamont route..

Also on this note, the CV is politically committed to upgrading Hwy 99 to an Interstate, and there are major freeway plans for Fresno and Modesto in the works. I think this blog tends to overrate the importance of Valley political support for HSR, when in reality it's down near the bottom of their list.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

ELIMINATED FROM FURTHER CONSIDERATION) of the Bay Area to Central Valley Final Program EIR/EIS:

• US-101 Alignment Alternative: From San Francisco (Transbay Terminal or 4th and King Terminal
Station), this alignment alternative would follow the US-101 freeway alignment south to San Jose and
be on an exclusive guideway in the US-101 corridor.
This exclusive guideway alignment would have major construction issues involving the construction of an
aerial guideway adjacent to and above an active existing freeway facility while maintaining freeway
traffic. Limited right-of-way in this corridor would require the extensive purchase of additional right-of-
way and nearly exclusive use of an aerial structure between San Francisco and San Jose. In San
Francisco, major new tunnel construction would be required.
The US-101 alignment alternative would require many sections of high-level structures to pass over
existing overpasses and connector ramps, resulting in high construction costs and constructability issues
that would make this alignment alternative impracticable. This alignment alternative would also require
relocating and maintaining freeway access and capacity during construction. The aerial portions would
introduce a major new visual element along the US-101 corridor that would have visual impacts
(intrusion/shade/shadow) on the residential portions for this alignment alternative. In addition, the
freeway has substandard features (e.g., medians and shoulders) in many places, and it is assumed that
any room that might be available for HST facilities likely would be used by Caltrans to upgrade the
freeway in these areas. Construction of the tunnel in San Francisco from the Transbay Terminal site to
17th Street would be difficult because most of the tunnel would need to be constructed using compressed
air techniques in soft Bay-fill ground.

Rafael said...

• I-280 Alignment Alternative (Exclusive Guideway): From San Francisco (Transbay Terminal or
4th and King Terminal Station), this alignment alternative would follow south along the I-280 freeway
alignment to San Jose and be on an exclusive guideway in the I-280 corridor.
This exclusive guideway alignment would have major construction issues involving the construction of an
aerial guideway adjacent to and above an active existing freeway facility while maintaining freeway
traffic. Limited right-of-way in this corridor would require the extensive purchase of additional right-of-
way and nearly exclusive use of an aerial structure between San Francisco and San Jose. The portion
within the City and County of San Francisco is fully developed, and connecting the alignment alternative
to Diridon Station in San Jose would require a guideway passing through developed portions of
downtown San Jose. These areas would require considerable property acquisition.
The I-280 alignment alternative would require many sections of high-level structures to pass over existing
overpasses and connector ramps (in particular at interchanges with Routes 17 (580), 85, and 92),
resulting in high construction costs and constructability issues that would make this alignment alternative
impracticable. This alignment alternative would also require relocating and maintaining freeway access
and capacity during construction. The aerial portions would introduce a major new visual element along
the I-280 corridor that would have visual impacts (intrusion/shade/shadow) on the residential portions,
nature preserves, and scenic areas for this alignment alternative. In addition, the freeway has
substandard features (e.g., medians and shoulders) in many places, and it is assumed that any room that
might be available for HST facilities likely would be used by Caltrans to upgrade the freeway in these
areas. The considerable earthwork and retaining walls needed through Palo Alto and Woodside would
have potentially significant impacts to nature preserves. The I-280 corridor would not allow a convenient
connection to San Francisco International Airport from the south—the alignment alternative would have
to leave the freeway corridor and pass through Hillsborough and Burlingame to provide access to the
airport. For these reasons, the I-280 corridor is not considered to be a practicable alternative for HST
service between San Jose and San Francisco.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Ask and we shall receive. Thanks so much, Rafael.

Bay Area Resident said...

LOL, sorry but that "extensive analysis" put forth by the CHSRA on why they can't use the freeways smells like a pig farm.

That insurmountable guideway through downtown San Jose is already planned at this point, since the CHSRA rerouted the residential section in that area through downtown SJ so as to isolate the Palo Alto-Menlo Park-Atherton residents, and also to facilitate some construction planned for the San Jose BALL PARK. In other words whatever claptrap comes out of the CHSRA is not to be believed, they wrote whatever they felt like writing to enable their aim of using the Caltrain tracks.

and connecting the alignment alternative
to Diridon Station in San Jose would require a guideway passing through developed portions of
downtown San Jose. These areas would require considerable property acquisition.
The I-280 alignment alternative would require many sections of high-level structures to pass over existing
overpasses and connector r

Anonymous said...

@Bay Area Resident said...
"When are you train wonks going to realize that the citizens of the peninsula and south bay feel very PUT OUT by this project. If prop 1A had already decided that this 220mph train was going to run on the CALTRAIN TRACKS they should have called it out in the vote"

I don't understand how these people didn't know the route. I knew the route. it was readily available on the map and int he videos - even if the people in Pa were illiterate they could have seen it in the video.

Anonymous said...

This is much ado about nothing. The train will go just the way it has been planned. while nimby's carry on and bloggers speculate, based on every leak and tidbit, the powers that be are going forward with their business. just relax. As for a PA solution, just build it at grade and cover it with a box and put a park on top. by the way if PA winds up with a station, ( i dont think they should have the privilege) I haven't heard any one mention that the trains will be slowing down to stop long before they enter PA or Atherton and will be clear of the neighborhoods long before the accelerate to 125 and make any noise. Express trains blowing through? fine make PA and express stop. That way all trains entering and leaving the greater Atherton/PA metro area, will be traveling at or below the speed of current trains.

Clem said...

Comments like letting the peninsula stew, haven't thought about the end of the line, SF.

Right. If you wanted to find out SF's political clout, this would be a good way to do it. Not that it matters: the language will easily be expunged from the bill.

Let's just eliminate Caltrain altogether

@Tony, I seriously hope that was written in jest. There is no way that would ever fly-- not with peninsula commuters (considering the ~20,000 additional cars that would be dumped on the roads), and certainly not with NIMBYs whose primary objection is the impact of grade separation structures (a.k.a. "Berlin Wall"). It's a dumb solution, and to what problem, exactly?

the CHSRA rerouted the residential section in that area through downtown SJ

@BAR, can you please describe this realignment in more detail? Exactly along what alignment has the line been "rerouted" away from Willow Glen?

Anonymous said...

okay now wtf are they doing down there? USC professor appointed to direct high-speed train project

From news services
Posted: 07/07/2009 04:32:59 PM PDT
Updated: 07/07/2009 04:33:21 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES - A USC professor and urban planner was appointed today to spearhead the development of a maglev train system for Southern California.
Cerritos Mayor Bruce Barrows, who heads the Orangeline Development Authority, chose Michael Kodama as executive director of the project.

Anonymous said...

heres the maglev route:
and this

is this new? the website looks new and the news article came out today in the contra costa times.

maglev to palmdale.

Fred Martin said...

It is revealing that CHSRA considers the concern about "relocating and maintaining freeway access and capacity during construction" as a deal-breaker about selecting either the 101 or 280 as alternative alignments, but what about the concern for maintaining Caltrain access and capacity during multi-track mega-construction??? Freeways can't be disrupted, but Caltrain can be disrupted?

While the 101 and 280 are poor choices for integrating HSR with high-speed regional rail, it is an open question about what's going to happen to Caltrain during construction. Where's the concern for maintaining Caltrain access and capacity?

Anonymous said...

caltrain service can be maintained as construction will be done incrementally, just as it was done with grade separations and will be with forthcoming grad separations including any raising or lowering of tracks. There's nothing complex about it. It just takes proper coordination

Karl (In Santa Cruz) said...

The assertion that HSR is independent of urban sprawl is a narrow minded view.

Whatever the terminal and stations points are on HSR they are going to become magnets for development that will indirectly, but very definitely, deflate some of the pressure that is causing people to move to the hinterlands.

Sure, HSR needs tributary commuter and regional lines. But HSR stations will eventually become the focus for those.

What this means is that if we look at HSR in isolation or regional/commuter in isolation we could end up with exactly the kind of sprawl we don't want and which ends up making the automobile an attractive option.

The reason I brought up Sacramento as something that I'd trade a SF HSR terminus for is that absent a strong centripetal force in Sacramento once the housing recession is over they are going to go back to their farm-into-condo mania.

So, yes, I forgot to mention that when it comes to reducing urban sprawl, HSR must go hand-in-hand with local and regional systems.

But that doesn't change the fact that unless we look to the totality of these combined systems we risk once again handing the game to the automobile and highway side.

I'm not talking about things that will happen in 5 or even 15 years. Rather the affects of HSR and subsidiary systems will occur over 25+ years.

What this means in the context of the peninsula HSR alignment is this: we've got to assure that whatever shape this thing takes that it dovetails very nicely with everything from bus lines to Caltrain to Bart to, yes, SFO, SJC, OAK (and maybe even the Marin ferry's that I used to ride to work. ;-)

Rafael said...

@ jim -

the Orangeline maglev folks have been at it for years without ever getting anywhere wrt funding. The organization is a paper tiger kept alive by a combination of commercial real estate interests in OC and would-be maglev vendor General Atomics.

There could be value in a second Metrolink service between LA US and Disneyland (Poinciana Park) via Huntington Park, Paramount and Cypress. With EPA Tier 4 diesel engines and FRA quiet zones, this approach would yield more bang for buck than maglev. A tunnel under Disneyland would be needed to reach Anaheim ARTIC and possibly, Oceanside.

Note that there is also an old line from Paramount down to just north of Long Beach airport. With some ingenuity and investment, it might be possible to run an unmanned people mover in a tunnel to the terminals. Service to LAUS would be possible right away, one to Disneyland would require a new turnoff to the Cypress line described above.

Bay Area Resident said...

Clem, San Jose is holding "good neighbor" meetings with residents to explore all of their initiatives including HSR and the Ballpark simultaneously. I think the real reason for these meetings is to get the ballpark vote through, personally. But anyway, some maps have been discussed in these good neighbor meetings that have HST going along 87 and into Diridon over the freeways there, EXACTLY the route that the original EIR said was unworkable, due to the "property domain" required. This new route ends up avoiding the willow glen "fishhook" altogether, and flattens out the train route, but it shifts the diridon station dock a few hundred feet to the left. This means the build of Diridon needs to shift right. But what this route does for San Jose and HST is that it eliminates the problem curve into Diridon which was almost a deal breaker, and it puts the train a little closer to the ballpark deveopment.

The point being, the CHSRA considers the exact Caltrain route to be the 11th commandment until THEY determine they need to change it for some expeditious goal, and then movement is easy and fast.

lyqwyd said...

resident, I don't think you understand the cost differences between a few miles of elevated structure & tunnel in an already difficult & expensive area to build (San Jose) and the difference between 50 miles of elevated structure along 101 compared to a mainly at grade solution along Caltrain ROW.

In the first scenario the cost differences are not that much, while in the second they are tremendous.

Another question, is it the HSRA that's talking about rerouting or is it the city of San Jose? In the second case it would be San Jose that would have to pay the difference if they don't want to use the determined alignment, just like the Peninsula should pay the difference if they don't like the proposed alignment.

Rob Dawg said...

Keep this up and they'll build Merced to Bakersfield first.

Devil's Advocate said...

If the problem is Palo Alto then bypass Palo Alto. You can run the HSR next to the Amtrak line of North San Jose along Lafayette Street, then once crossed Hwy 237 veer slightly NW through the marshes and connect to the now inoperative railroad ROW in East Palo alto (the one that comes across the bay from Newark just south of the Dunbarton bridge. From there then, still along that ROW, reconnect to the Caltrain ROW in Redwood City. It's doable, it doesn't bother the PA Nimbys, and it's probably cheaper than an elevated HSR through Palo alto along Caltrain ROW. If Palo Altans want to ride the HST, I guess they'll have to drive to Diridon to catch it.

Devil's Advocate said...

The endangered mouse in the salt marshes can be protected by moving them to Palo Alto backyards. NIMBYs will have to improvise some fake marshes in their swimming pools.
From Alviso to Diridon there is plenty of room along the Amtrak ROW.
Building along the bay all the way to Brisbane is not a good idea. Besides bypassing SFO that route would force the closure of the Redwood City seaport, since ships couldn't obviously navigate on top of the HSR.

Rafael said...

@ Devil's Advocate -

"NIMBYs will have to improvise some fake marshes in their swimming pools."

Ha, good one!

Unfortunately, the Alviso-SJ Diridon ROW doesn't belong to Amtrak but UPRR. It's also not wide enough for two additional tracks, though perhaps that could be resolved by putting them in subway tunnels underneath a couple of lanes of the frontage road.

One problem with going only as far as Dumbarton is that Belmont and Burlingame have also joined the coalition of peninsula cities. If Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton were to get a bypass via the bay, it's not at all clear cities north of Atherton would welcome elevated HSR tracks with open arms.

The mighty seaport of RC doesn't see a whole lot of traffic. Even so, it might be possible to elevate the tracks sufficiently between the Dumbarton and San Mateo bridges to enable small ships to pass underneath. I doubt the same would be possible for the port of SF, the ships there are a lot bigger.

As for SFO, perhaps a station could be built out on the water, connected to the terminals via a people mover.

It's idle speculation anyhow, though. The protection afforded endangered species is ironclad compared to that for people who purchased property near an active railroad ROW.

Anonymous said...

They'll build Palmdale first so as to lock in the Tehachapis alignment.

They don't want at grade on the Peninsula because fences won't be enough to keep people off the ROW. Of course they will still need surface fencing and razor wire to try to keep taggers off the elevated.

If you find BART in Daly City visually and audially appealing you'll love the look and sound of the new HSR-Caltrain.

Effectively what will be created is a linear slum, like a freeway.

looking on said...

Thanks Rafael for the excerpts from the EIR, crossing out various alternatives.

What is interesting is to look at the wording and compare the rejections of 101 and 280. Really looks like boiler plate to me. Yea, guys we would like to go that why, but......

The whole EIR process to date has been nothing but a propaganda routine so the Kopp and Diridon could dictate their chosen route.

The pending lawsuit may have something to say about the validity of these findings.

I really liked the one disclosure when it was mentioned that using I-280 would destroy the views of the hills. Of course the views and affects on the lives of hundreds of residents living along the CalTrain corridor don't seem to matter.

I haven't kept up with the objections down south that are starting to appear. Anyone have an links to these objections?

Anonymous said...

I'm endangered and I object to the objections.

Bianca said...

looking on said...:

Really looks like boiler plate to me.


"Boiler plate" just means that the same language applies across multiple documents. It doesn't mean that what is stated in the boiler plate isn't valid. It means that the CHSRA didn't waste money figuring out completely different ways of saying "major construction issues involving the construction of an
aerial guideway adjacent to and above an active existing freeway facility while maintaining freeway
or "These areas would require considerable property acquisition".

No need to re-invent the wheel. Calling it "boiler plate" doesn't mean it isn't valid.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 12:48pm -

every dollar spent on lawyers' fees and cost escalation related to defending against NIMBY lawsuits is a dollar not available for making the architecture of the elevated structure appealing.

The Japanese don't seem to care much about visual aesthetics when it comes to their shinkansen lines, but they do care very much about noise (see cross-section). Note the absence of fences on these elevated sections.

By contrast, the Italians care passionately about style and are willing to invest in making even utilitarian structures like railway viaducts blend in with historic architecture or civic visions (image 1, image 2).

Daly City BART looks they way it does because the people who authorized its construction didn't care to spend the extra money needed to make it look nice. They took no pride in their new infrastructure.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

perhaps CHSRA has more detailed reports on dedicated guideway options up 101 and 280, respectively, gathering dust in their library. They just never bothered to convert them to PDF and publish them to date.

By all means, feel free to contact them and ask them what they have. If there's anything, they should have no objection letting you view it in Sacramento. Perhaps they even have an electronic version on file somewhere.

At the very least, someone should have spelled out somewhere exactly how many freeway overpasses would need to be remodeled, how many traffic lanes would need to be closed during construction etc.

My guess is that at the very least, running tracks up either freeway would be just as expensive as fully grade separating the entire Caltrain ROW, including the Caltrain tracks, so there's more bang for the state and federal transportation bucks.

Fred Martin said...

Running trains up 101 and 280 is a bad idea, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least that the brief boilerplate blurbs in the EIR represent the full extent of CHSRA's "analysis". This for $60-70 million in studies! This is how CHSRA gets itself into trouble...

Rafael said...

@ Fred -

why don't you just ask if they can provide more details before you jump to conclusions about how thorough - or not - their past work has been?

Fred Martin said...

Rafael, plenty of evidence demonstrates that CHSRA did a shoddy analysis of the Altamont and Pacheco corridors, so they have established a track record. Just look at the studies and laugh.

Anyway, let's see all this deep analysis of the 101 and 280 corridors. Why hasn't CHSRA put it up on their online library? After all, these are public funds and pubic data. Let's see it.... habeas corpus.

Peter said...

I have to agree with Bianca.

"Boilerplate" language in contracts may not always be enforceable, and is not at all tailored to the issue at hand.

However, if it is used in the context under discussion, it may not be custom-tailored, but unlike in a contract, it may nonetheless be valid and correctly state the conclusions of the document's authors.

Fred Martin said...

The problem with the use of "boilerplate" language is not its legality or validity. It's the suggestion that the consultants were going through the motions in dismissing one alternative with a standard dismissal. Attention to the specific context of the issue is ignored or simply shrugged off. At root, it's just sloppy.

If I am paying a lot of money to a consultant for an analysis of a specific policy issue, I would be pissed to find out that the consultant provided the same analysis with boilerplate language on another specific policy issue. For the amount of funds being spent, I would expect some detail and specific considerations.

Clem said...

@BAR: thanks for the description, but I'm still not picturing it-- if the tracks generally followed 87, how would the Diridon station still fit in that picture? Isn't it a couple thousand feet away from the 87 alignment? Thank you for clearing that up for me.