Friday, March 6, 2009

HSR NIMBY's in Palo Alto

The California High Speed Rail project, given a green light by voters in California in November. If this thing actually gets built, it will run from LA to "the Bay Area". I say that because I'm getting pretty convinced that Murphy's Law is becoming pretty solid these days and that anything that can get changed, probably will. The theory is this thing will run to San Jose via the Pacheco Pass and then up the Caltrain line to San Francisco. In SF it may or may not enter a "Train box" - a new tunnel that will extend it to the Transbay Terminal at 2nd/Mission.

On that Caltrain section they need to run 4 tracks the whole way to make this thing work. In some places Caltrain already has 4 tracks, in some places it will be tricky to add them. Additionally the whole thing needs to be grade separated, Caltrain has something like 23 at grade crossings today. In Palo Alto/Menlo Park/Atherton the plan of record (for today) is that the grade separation and track addition will be done on a raised berm, similar to how grade separation is done in San Carlos today. This has the people living near the Caltrain line in an uproar. They (hah!) want a tunnel dug underground for the train, probably half a billion dollars or so. Well, really they want the thing to go over the Altamont Pass and terminate in Oakland so they never have to see it - which is amusing since this project will electrify the line (quieter - a big plus, I used to live at Alma and Hawthorne in Palo Alto and it was VERY noisy), and remove the at grade crossings which are bad for traffic and even worse for cars or people who stray onto the tracks when the train comes through.

My friend Dan Connelly has shot off a well reasoned letter to the editor of the PA Daily News.

People wanting to follow this drama are well advised to follow the California High Speed Rail Blog. I used to think I knew a few things about trains until I started reading this. There is a cadre of folks who are literally obsessed with trains and tell you minutia about how there is a little spot in San Carlos, just north of the station, that is going to require a lot of money to fix for HSR - it currently causes trains to slow in San Carlos - left as is it HSR trains would have to slow from 125+ to 60 something (I am not an expert but this is my general understanding) adding 1%+ to the overall trip time.

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