News

City holding two meetings on high-speed rail

Palo Alto officials to meet Aug. 24 and Sept. 13 to review California High-Speed Rail Authority Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report

Citing several "outstanding issues" related to the proposed high-speed-rail corridor through Palo Alto, the City Council High-Speed Rail Committee will discuss the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report on Aug. 24.

The full City Council will also discuss the analysis report and Palo Alto's preferences on Sept. 13, according to Steve Emslie, deputy city manager.

"The City of Palo Alto continues to believe that there remain several outstanding issues associated with HSR along the Caltrain corridor," Emslie said.

"Many aspects of the project could have a significant impact on Palo Alto residents and businesses, such as the phasing and constructing of this project, the interoperability of Caltrain and the HSR, and the continued consideration by the California High-Speed Rail Authority of the aerial and at-grade options for the four tracks. It is important for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to understand and mitigate these impacts as much as possible."

Issues that still need to be resolved include high-speed rail ridership numbers and funding, which will have significant impacts on the kind, type and schedule for construction of a high-speed-rail system; the Caltrain electrification project and its funding; the CHRSA's consideration of a potential Midpeninsula rail station including Palo Alto and the associated impacts; and the continued consideration by the authority of aerial and at-grade four-track options, Emslie said.

The CHSRA held its latest meeting on Aug. 5 in San Francisco. According to Palo Alto officials who attended, the authority acknowledged that in most cases Peninsula cities located along the existing Caltrain rail corridor prefer the below-grade option in their communities. This option could potentially minimize adverse impacts such as train noise, visual and other impacts on property values.

Rail authority staff presented their findings on the supplemental report and said they are getting closer to resolving the issues between what is desired, what is feasible, what is achievable -- and developing an optimal solution for a rail line along the Peninsula.

City officials have released a list of key report findings, including:

* Three options that all include a four-track configuration:

1. Aerial four-track -- a rail line that is on an elevated structure above an existing railroad grade.

2. At-grade four-track -- a rail line at the same level as an existing roadway/railroad grade.

3. Trench four-track -- an open trench and sunken passageway below existing roadway/railroad grade.

Rail authority staff stressed all three four-track options remain on the table for review and consideration until further analysis is done.

* Track right-of-way width is estimated at 80-82 feet. According to Robert "Bob" Doty, Peninsula Rail Program director, "These new track options enable CHSRA to come up with a narrower right-of-way width of between 80 to 82 feet versus upwards of 130 feet under the original (plan)."

Doty further said that "... this configuration offers significant advantages in minimizing property impacts, improves ... train operations and enables the rail authority to construct the infrastructure for high-speed rail and keep Caltrain commuter rail trains operating at the same time."

* Rail authority staff will complete engineering design work based on the three options.

* Discussion of the Midpeninsula station options is planned during the last three weeks of September. More information will follow upon receipt of dates from the rail authority.

* The Draft Project Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) are expected for publication by December 2010.

* Project cost will not be known until February 2011. A new business plan will be presented to the rail authority board early next year. Preliminary cost figures for the Palo Alto section are provided in Section 6 of the Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report.

* Construction phasing is unknown at this time. Most likely once the environmental work is completed and funding is available a construction phasing program will be implemented. Authority staff presented various options in the Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report.

The report can be read at www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov. Click on the "Agenda Items" link for the Aug. 5 meeting. More information and up-to-date information on the city's efforts are available at www.cityofpaloalto.org/cahsr.

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