News

Rail CEO: Peninsula design not 'predetermined'

Agency seeks to assure stakeholders that trench option is still on the table

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has sent out a letter to Peninsula communities seeking to quash fears that the plans for the proposed high-speed rail line have already been determined.

Roelof van Ark, chief executive officer of the rail authority, wrote the letter to correct what he called "a misunderstanding" about the agency's Aug. 6 application for federal funds. That application lays out a "phasing" plan in which most of the construction is focused on the north and south sections of the Peninsula segment, leaving the Midpeninsula with the existing two-track, at-grade system.

Palo Alto officials last week said they were worried about the prospect of more trains passing through the city, potentially creating traffic jams around the Caltrain corridor and slowing down emergency-response vehicles.

Van Ark wrote in his letter that some on the Peninsula are concerned that the language in the federal application "has pre-determined the outcome of our ongoing environmental review process."

"I want to state strongly that this is not the case," Van Ark wrote. "It is our combined state and federal environmental review process that will be used to determine the ultimate alignment selected for the high-speed train's path along the Peninsula."

That process will see its next milestone in December, when the rail authority is scheduled to release its Environmental Impact Report for the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment of the line. One of the most critical chapters in the document is the Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report, which identifies the potential design alternatives for the voter-approved rail line.

The report, which the rail authority unveiled on Aug. 5, identifies three four-track design alternatives for the Peninsula segment that will be further analyzed: aerial, at-grade and below grade in an open trench. The Palo Alto City Council High-Speed Rail Committee briefly discussed these options last week, with several city officials saying they support the trench alternative.

The latest report also eliminates several design options that the rail authority had previously considered, including deep tunnels, berms and shallow cut-and-cover tunnels.

Van Ark wrote in the letter that three remaining design options have only undergone a preliminary level of engineering (3 to 5 percent). The December report will "further engineer those options to 15 percent, which will allow for a more thorough evaluation of their impacts and benefits."

"Again, a trench option through many Peninsula cities remain an option to be further studied," he wrote.

The City Council High-Speed Rail Committee is scheduled to discuss these options at a special meeting today (Aug. 30). The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:36 am

What is the deadline to submit written comments on the High Speed Rail project?

Would the Weekly please publish this important information with the email address to which comments should be submitted AND a link to the DEIR?

I think this kind of information should be in EVERY article on any major project that is going through environmental review. Many citizens don't know how they can participate in the process. (Blame the deletion of substantive civics classes from our educational curriculum.) This kind of information would be very helpful to them. The HSRA has worked hard to convolute the process. It would be nice if the press would help us by unraveling basic informational pieces like this.

Thank you!


Like this comment
Posted by Stu Beattie
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:54 am

I continue to be bewildered that this high-speed project has any support. Cost estimates are rising; anticipated fares are increasing; already bleak customer traffic projections will decline in proportion to projected fare increases. An elevated track "solution" on the Peninsula will structurally split our communities.

Not only does the state of California have no money, the Federal Government, expected to foot a large part of the cost, has no money either. Please let's not forget that we are not only citizens of the State but also of our great country.


Like this comment
Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2010 at 11:21 am

Van Ark is becoming quite a spin doctor. I guess he doesn't read what Kopp and Diridon say that it's a done deal and don't bother us. Lots of talk by the HSR Authority and no evidence they are listening to the Communities.


Like this comment
Posted by Train Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 30, 2010 at 11:25 am

Last chance to comment on the Bay Area section of the PROGRAM EIR is Wednesday 9/1, according to: Web Link

"An additional opportunity for public comment will be provided at the meeting on September 1st.

On September 2nd, the Authority Board will consider certifying the Revised Final Program EIR and making a new decision on a preferred network alternative for the high-speed train system to connect the Bay Area to the Central Valley."


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

While we are still bickering about this 400-mile long HSR, China will have built 13000 kilometers, or over 8000 miles, of HSR, by 2012, including over 9200 kilometers, or over 5700 miles, of HSR, between 2010 and 2012. Yes, 5700 miles of HSR in three years!

Web Link

Web Link

Wake up folks! We are becoming the joke of the world.


Like this comment
Posted by Train Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 30, 2010 at 11:34 am

next comment period should be in December:

Web Link
Page 16:

ES.5 NEXT STEPS

The Preliminary and Supplemental AA Reports will inform the Project Description for the Project EIR/EIS. They will also focus the next level of design (15 percent) and inform the analysis of environmental
impacts. This ongoing work will provide the Authority, FRA and the communities in the Caltrain corridor a fuller picture of the design options in each subsection and a comprehensive review of project’s benefits and impacts.

As the engineering and environmental work continues, the Authority will continue to meet and engage communities along the San Francisco to San Jose HST section in a discussion about the different alternatives. These activities will inform preparation of the Draft Project EIR/EIS, which is currently scheduled to be released for public comment in December of 2010.


Like this comment
Posted by THETRUTH
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2010 at 3:14 pm

NOW BURT your worried that Caltrain wont be grade seperated??? Make up your mind!!! HSR will do that..AND it is going to be built..so either trains are coming thru PA at grade with crossing gated or stop whinning about the project!!!


Like this comment
Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2010 at 3:58 pm

James Hoosac: "While we are still bickering about this 400-mile long HSR, China will have built 13000 kilometers, or over 8000 miles, of HSR, by 2012, including over 9200 kilometers, or over 5700 miles, of HSR, between 2010 and 2012. Yes, 5700 miles of HSR in three years!"

Yep. China's exactly the place we want to emulate.

Bulldozing of historic neighborhoods:
Web Link

China has a death penalty for non-violent crimes
Web Link

China's pollution
Web Link

Yep. I want to use China for all my examples of why we should be doing things.


Like this comment
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 30, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I would have to agree - communism is probably not the way to go for a neat new train.

It's the car traffic, folks. A HSR station at University Ave. will be a nightmare at best. Like it or not, the train has already left the station - let Mtn. View have the stop.


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2010 at 8:46 pm

It's an asinine waste of time to politicize and trivialize what China has achieved. Most people reading this web site have more than enough information on this matter so that I don't feel I need to argue on this.


Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 30, 2010 at 9:28 pm

James: No need to argue, because you have a weak argument. Why would California want to be like China? I sure don't want the Peninsula or any other parts of the state to try to be something it's not. Maybe you're one of the few that will benefit from one of those short term jobs that are being promised. Problem is, many of those jobs, if the Chinese have their way, will be staffed by the Chinese. Or, maybe you think it'll be cool to be able to get to LA in 3 hours. Not sure if you've noticed, but the state doesn't have any money. Jobs are great, but if HSR fails, the state is in a heap of trouble. If it's successful, the state is still in trouble.


Like this comment
Posted by population density of China
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Dude!

The population densities of the cities in China are very different from ours.

Don't look for persuasive factoids, think about the actual reality of our situation in California right now.


Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Millions of construction workers are unemployed.

What do you think they should be building?

Whom do you think is paying for their unemployment?


Which is more beneficial to the economy, HSR or unemployed
construction workers?

The Palo Alto Post Office (Hamilton), the Embarcadero/Alma/train underpass, and the Palo Alto Train Station were built during the Great Depression.

Do you think we would be better off today if they had not been
built when they were?


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I really don't want to argue the density/feasibility issue. But, maybe for the last time, let's do a comparison, on Spain:

Spain: population 46M, area 200,000 sq. miles.

According to wikipedia, the government plans to complete 4,300 miles of HSR by 2010, and 6,200 miles by 2020.

Web Link

California: population 37M, area 163,900 sq. miles. As we all know, we have exactly ZERO miles of HSR. And what is the population going to be by 2020?




Like this comment
Posted by tiredOfTheFlames
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Wish people would stop wasting space flaming each other. It never ends well and certainly never changes opinions.




Like this comment
Posted by TrainIsComing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Electrification of the Caltrain track is coming and it is not going to be in a tunnel. How to take advantage of the change is the question.


Like this comment
Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2010 at 7:34 am

Spain is also one of the PIGS countries in serious financial trouble due to sovereign debt. Maybe they shouldn't have spent all that money on HSR.

I guess that's one thing that's the same as California.


Like this comment
Posted by Lois
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2010 at 8:20 am

Stu says: "I continue to be bewildered that this high-speed project has any support."

Many of the younger generation voted for HSR and are the biggest supporters of it today. My own son voted for it because he was taken by the idea of getting on a train here and getting off at Disneyland!!

When I pointed out to him how much it will cost to build, he was typical of the younger generation; the price tag was no deterrent even though it's his generation who will be paying for it.

Yes, China is building HSR for one-eight the cost per mile.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2010 at 8:31 am

Lois

You are quite right in that the younger generation do want the innovation of choice when it comes to travel. They are not all enamoured with cars or flying. They are not learning to drive as young as the older generations and they are not buying cars because they see better options. They don't buy into flying for short distances as they see flying as a lot of hassle. Particularly if they have traveled overseas, they see trains and other public transit as something futuristic and they want it.

Don't believe me, then talk to someone under the age of 30.


Like this comment
Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2010 at 10:28 am

What absolute nonsense.

The "younger generation" is more focused on getting a job in this awful economy. If they're wistfully thinking about HSR, they need to stop spending mommy and daddy's money.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 31, 2010 at 10:41 am

The real problem is finding the truth. Ok so the CEO says that things aren't predetermined and he's trying to correct that. This is an apparent miscommunication. Yet how can the CHSRA have such a miscommunication when spending $9,000,000 on PR?

Let's face it, young or old, PA resident or not this project is being quite poorly managed. Too poorly for us to let them carve up our communities, permanently ruin it only to have a fraction of the ridership they errantly predict.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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