The California High Speed Rail Authority is eyeing Palo Alto as a potential stop for super-fast trains that could whiz passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours.
After selecting the Pacheco Pass, by default, at a mid-December meeting, the authority's governing board said the train route, if constructed, would use the Peninsula to reach San Francisco.
That means trains zipping at speeds reaching 125 miles per hour along the current Caltrain tracks, an authority staff report states.
The authority envisions four parallel tracks along the current Caltrain route -- the center two shared by the high-speed trains and the exterior tracks used solely by Caltrain.
But the electric trains, propelled by energy from overhead wires, need a minimum path 50 feet wide, one authority document states.
Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg said he thinks that most of the high-speed train's needs can be accommodated within existing Caltrain right-of-way.
He said Caltrain is building new tracks and planning for electrification -- changes that would facilitate high-speed rail but will also improve local service by reducing air pollution, noise and saving money.
But if extra land is needed, the authority, not Caltrain, would be responsible for acquiring it, Weinberg said.
He said he did not think the high-speed rail would significantly affect existing Caltrain service. And some upgrades needed for high-speed rail, such as crossing improvements, would also benefit Caltrain, Weinberg said.
He said it hasn't been determined if the authority would pay Caltrain for the use of its tracks yet.
Coming into San Jose from the Central Valley, the high-speed train would stop at either Palo Alto or Redwood City, Millbrae and then San Francisco.
Palo Alto would probably have more passengers interested in boarding, but Redwood City and the Redwood City Chamber of Commerce have expressed interest in hosting a stop, the staff report states.
Menlo Park and Atherton have both lobbied to keep the high-speed rail off the Peninsula.
Voters will be asked in November 2008 to approve a $10 billion bond measure. The money would pay for preliminary studies for the $33 billion-plus endeavor.