News


Rail authority delays study of Peninsula designs

Officials scrap December deadline for Peninsula report after choosing Central Valley as first segment of rail line

The California High-Speed Rail Authority will delay releasing a highly anticipated analysis of design options for the Peninsula segment of the rail line because of a recent decision to begin construction in Central Valley.

The authority had previously planned to release the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment of the $43 billion line in December. The report will evaluate the various design alternatives for each portion of the segment and consider the impacts of the most feasible alternative.

Preliminary versions of the report identified at-grade and elevated trains as the most likely design options for the Peninsula, with tunneling or open trenching in some areas.

Earlier this month, the authority decided to start construction of the 800-mile line in the Central Valley after a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration allocated $715 million specifically for that region of the state. The authority has yet to determine whether the voter-approved project will make its debut on the Merced-to-Fresno or the Fresno-to-Bakersfield portion of the Central Valley segment.

Robert Doty, director of the Peninsula Rail Program (a partnership of Caltrain and the rail authority), released a statement Friday afternoon saying that the decision by the FRA and the rail authority to give Central Valley the priority "will likely impact the prioritization of the environmental review process for all high-speed-rail sections currently under study."

"This means that the scheduled December 2010 release of the Draft EIR/EIS for the San Francisco to San Jose section will need to be rescheduled for a future date," wrote Doty, who is responsible for the design of the Peninsula segment.

He did not specify when this document will be released.

Doty wrote that the decision to delay the EIR for the Peninsula segment will give the rail authority an opportunity to further refine the document and to educate the public about the project. California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond for the project in November 2008.

"For communities, this means more time (to) learn about the project and to prepare to review and comment on the environmental document," Doty wrote.

Peninsula cities have been busily preparing for the new report by hiring engineering consultants, hosting public hearings and lobbying rail officials to give more preference to underground tunnels. Earlier this month, more than 500 people attended a rally in Burlingame to protest the project in its current form.

Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt, who sits on the Peninsula Rail Consortium, had publicly called on the rail authority on several occasions in the past month to delay the EIR for the local segment, noting that the recent decision to start the system in the Central Valley makes the Peninsula document less urgent. The rail project has been heavily criticized on the Peninsula, with Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton all suing the rail authority over the adequacy of earlier environmental documents.

Burt, who also sits on the council's High-Speed Rail Committee, warned at a recent meeting that if the rail authority goes through with its December deadline, it would run the risk of having a "stale EIR" -- one that lies dormant for so long that it no longer serves any legal purpose. He emphasized at the Oct. 25 council meeting that it's not clear when the rail authority will have the funding it needs to build the Peninsula segment.

Doty noted in his announcement that the FRA had allocated $16 million in its recent grant for rail-related improvements on the Peninsula segment and said this qualification "positions the San Francisco-San Jose section well for future federal and other funding."

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by ChooChoo Charlie
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2010 at 1:44 am

More proof that they are making this up as they go along. Ridership and fare projections that go up and down, no idea where the peninsula depot will be, demands that cities build parking structures, etc. Voters were HAD in 2008 by bumbling bureaucrats who are as incompetent as they are dishonest.


Like this comment
Posted by ChooCHOO PA
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2010 at 8:42 am

65% voted yes..nobody was had ..rightwingers and Nimbys are just sore lossers..HSR will be built and now all the naysayers get more time to make up even more horrible outcomes.


Like this comment
Posted by get numbers right please
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2010 at 9:17 am

The passage of Prop 1A was by a vote of 52.5% yes and 47.5% no. It the "alliance for jobs" union and contractors group had not poured in about $2 million at the end of the 2008 election, Prop 1A would have never passed.

The PA council was completely off track on the issue, having voted 8-0 to endorse Prop 1A, not realizing at all what was on the table.

Times have really changed; PA is now part of a lawsuit against the EIR for the project. All funds are now going to be spent in the Central Valley. High Speed Rail popular in the Bayh Area .... dream on...


Like this comment
Posted by ChooCHOOPA
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:36 am

Prop1A PASSED in the BayArea counties in the 62-68 percent range..AND that includes PaloAlto!! And please ..the oil/billionare funded Cato/Reason run a full outright smear attack to defeate HSR and lost..So yes it won even with all the fear attacks


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:54 am

In the meantime, Caltrain vegetates and we all suffer.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Let's just do the San Jose south part and deal with the Peninsula later.


Like this comment
Posted by Get the numbers right
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2010 at 4:31 pm

This is hardly a Bay Area/ Peninsula project -- it is a State wide boondoggle, run by incompetent bureaucrats. Again it passed 52.5 to 47.5.

California in deep financial trouble and throwing this money down the toilet is the last thing that should be happening right now.

Larry Klein on council seems to be the one guy that really understands.


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm

The delay simply gives the Peninsula cities and residents more time to shore up their opposition, their technical legal positions. Bravo. The "nimby's win another round. Now lets see if the Peninsula cities use it wisely.

The very tangible thing that needs to be happening now is that opponents need to be letter writing to REPUBLICAN politicians all over th ecountry letting them know every ugly detail of what a loser this is, how poorly managed, how willfully ignorant the CHSRA is.

One question should suffice: Does TRUE high speed rail run through hundreds of miles of backyards, school yards, and residential neigbhorhoods? (2nd question): Was the federal ARRA stimulus money meant to cheat people out of their homes/retirement?


Like this comment
Posted by ChooChoo Charlie
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2010 at 12:15 am

What I can see happening is that the HSRA blows so much of its $42 billion wad in the Central Valley (taking cost overruns into account) that they don't have the funds to complete the legs to L.A./Anaheim, across Pacheco Pass or up the peninsula. There will be really fast rail service between Fresno and Merced and not enough funds left to finish the job.


Like this comment
Posted by Get the numbers right
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2010 at 8:05 am

Right now, they have about 4.3 billion to spend on construction. There is a very little chance that any further federal funding will come, as long as the Republicans control the house.

The Nov. election was a sea change; Ohbama will be trying for the next 2 years to figure out a way to get re-elected; further funding on such earmarked projects as this will not take place.

Net result, $.3 billion down a rat hole. A piece of track which will have to be heavily subsidized to operate, since ridership will be so low.

A real mess..


Like this comment
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

we should be praying that funds going down the rat hole are limited to $300,000,000 - better than the alternative $100,000,000,000 that is planned.

They still have not adequately responded to the idea of an HSR from LA to SJ instead of SF. Changing trains in SJ would not be that difficult and sure would cut the heartburn.


Like this comment
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 22, 2010 at 6:58 pm

@ commonsense or anyone else--

Please describe, in a couple of coherent paragraphs, how the service from San Jose to San Franicsco would work, given the increased number of trains and the demand for grade separations, and how this would be such an improvement over the HSR plan. I have asked this question more than once before, and no one has given a reasonable answer. I'm not looking for a complete engineering analysis, just a response from someone who has actually thought it through.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:21 am

WilliamR: if I understand your question correctly, many feel it would be redundant and costly to have two rail lines going up the peninsula (HSR and Caltrain).


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2010 at 10:24 am

Piggybacking on Larry Cohn's comments, the two rail lines being proposed are not planning to be compatible or allow for interoperability. In other words, they can't share stations and it's still to be determined how much track they'll share.

So not only are they redundant, they're competing for space, riders and funding.

A single system (Caltrain) would offer better local AND HSR service (not to be confused with speed). By carrying both types of passengers its ridership would be high enough to offer more frequent service to all stations.

It's worth pointing out again that with its planned upgrades, Caltrain will have the ability to make SF-SJ in about half an hour -- or 3 minutes longer than HSR.

These 3 minutes and the luxury of not having to do a timed cross-platform transfer will cost us several billion dollars, AND it will only serve 1-2 stations along the peninsula. What a waste.


Like this comment
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Let me expand on my question a little. To meet the demand for increased service on the Caltrain line, to accommodate the passengers transferring to and from the HSR stop in San Jose, I understand that trains would be running about every 5 minutes. There is going to be a demand for some type of grade separation for all of the cross streets up and down the Peninsula. People on these forums have been screaming about the impact of overhead structures and the infeasibility of tunnelling that the HSR line would have entailed. If you have a lot of express Caltrains on the line, that will probably mean four-tracking for a lot of the way. So what I'm asking is, where's the gain? You still have a high-volume rail line, with all of its infrastructure, and you've added the complication of people having to change trains in San Jose.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Am so TIRED of the "Aim low, America" crowd who just want to revert to 19th century horse and buggies. Bob Herbert had a nice take yesterday on the loser attitudes that prevail around the country, and Christie's in NJ in particular:

"Kennedy declared that we would go to the moon. Chris Christie tells us that we are incapable of building a railroad tunnel beneath the Hudson River.

Whatever one thinks of the tragically short Kennedy administration, we’d do well to pay renewed attention to the lofty ideals and broad themes that Kennedy brought to the national stage. We’ve become so used to aiming low that mediocrity is seen as a step up. We need to be reminded of what is possible."

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2010 at 12:24 pm

to wit:

"...and you've added the complication of people having to change trains in San Jose."

Yeah, just quit. Too insurmountable for America to solve that vexing issue.


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2010 at 2:10 pm

WilliamR, you’re making a few very expensive assumptions.

First, where do you get the train every 5 minutes from? Is it a widely held belief, or is it backed up with believable studies? Please cite. As you look this up, be aware that ridership projections serve multiple purposes: a) to plan for worst case environmental impacts; b) to forecast revenues and therefore the likely schedule. You can’t use the former to justify the latter.

Second, “There is going to be a demand for some type of grade separation for all of the cross streets up and down the Peninsula.” Not true, and herein lies the beauty of using Caltrain rather than HSR. HSR is required by law to grade separate or close every single street that crosses its path – no exceptions. Caltrain can pick, choose and prioritize based on a variety of logical, practical factors. The pressure to do ALL grade separations at once is reduced, perhaps even to the extent that “doing them right” becomes affordable.

Third, “If you have a lot of express Caltrains on the line, that will probably mean four-tracking for a lot of the way.” Clem, who drops in here from time to time, has an excellent blog at Web Link. Look for posts on how the train schedule influences the need for tracks (a smart schedule can solve what the HSRA intends to solve with concrete), and how overtakes can be accomplished with minimal stretches of strategically placed 4-wide passing tracks.

Upgrading Caltrain in place of HSR is better for the neighborhoods, easier on the budget, and far better from a transportation service perspective which, remember, is the whole point of the project.


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

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 69 comments | 6,690 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,033 views

Couples: Sex and Connection (Chicken or Egg?)
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 898 views

Populism: A response to the failure of the elites: Palo Alto edition
By Douglas Moran | 1 comment | 831 views

Zucchini Takeover
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 798 views