California High Speed Rail update-Looks like it’s not the project voters thought it was
I attended an informative meeting a few Mondays (12/14/09) ago in Burlingame about the High Speed Rail (HSR) project. A big thank you to Ted who coordinated the meeting which drew about 40-50 neigbors. The background is that Ted and a few other neighbors became extremely involved in learning more about the High Speed Rail project and went so far as to form a Burlingame based grass roots group: Don’t Railroad Us.
If you care about and enjoy our Peninsula lifestyle, you will probably want to stay in the loop with this project by going to community meetings and signing up for e-newsletter updates from your community. I know from first hand experience that one has to protect what we enjoy and what we probably at times take for granted in our communities. (read on about our successful fight against eminent domain in 2007)
There are some pretty powerful forces/agendas out there that can have a negative impact on our communities but individuals can and do make a difference in preserving and protecting what we value.
Burlingame’s e-news site.
Peninsula Cities Consortium is made up of Burlingame, Menlo Park, Belmont, Atherton, & Palo Alto; they have an e-newsletter you can sign up for.
Issues include trains traveling at 125 mph through cities, a $20 BILLION dollar short fall to finance such a project as well as lower than projected ridership and higher fares than initially expected. There seems to be holes in feasibility studies, cost to construct as well as negative impacts on local/S.F. Peninsula communities; eminent domain could become a reality with such a project since the tracks need to be wider; two sets of tracks are necessary since Union Pacific (they run freight trains on the existing tracks) has no intention of changing their trains or in going electric which requires a different type of track.
Another big challenge is that this project is trying to build a wider set of tracks in areas which are densely populated including homes which were constructed next to the train tracks. Additionally, as it is now, Caltrain is having a hard time meeting ridership numbers which has resulted in cuts in service times and stops at certain stations such as at Broadway. Lastly, what happens once riders disembark? Will there be car rental options, buses, or other transit options to get passengers from the train station to their final destination?
From The Burlingame Voice:
The San Mateo Times has reached the conclusion that it is time to mothball plans for high-speed rail in California. Here’s the rationale they list:
The high-speed rail system was flawed from the start. California does not have population densities close to those in Japan and Europe, which have successful high-speed rail systems.
Also, California has a poor record of accomplishing large construction projects anywhere near original estimates or completion forecasts.
Rail transportation funds would be far better spent on metropolitan transit systems like BART extensions to San Jose and eBART in the East Bay.
From the Don’t Railroad Us website here is the more detailed scoop on this proposed project:
IS THIS WHAT YOU HAD IN MIND WITH HIGH SPEED RAIL?
In November 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A, a $9.95 Billion bond measure to partially fund a $45 billion, 800-mile High Speed Rail (HSR) system between San Francisco and Anaheim. What most Peninsula voters did not know is that the first phase of the project scheduled for completion is the San Francisco to San Jose segment. This will slice right through our communities with construction scheduled to begin as early as 2011.
There are several alignment options being considered, including two above-ground types of structures, varying in height from 15-22 ft. This height does not include 25ft. catenary poles to supply power to the trains. The train platforms will likely be 90-125 ft. in width to accommodate four tracks. It is these raised structures that are of greatest concern to residents of the Peninsula as they threaten to bisect our communities, impact quality of life and diminish property values.
The current business plan (2008) estimates 18-20 HSR trains per hour during peak daytime hours, traveling at 125 MPH. Together with projected Caltrain plans for 12 trains per hour, there will be one train approximately every 2 minutes during peak hours. Plans are being finalized by the California High Speed Rail Authority, a 9-member group with NO representation from San Mateo County.
The momentum behind this project grows with each passing day, as Federal stimulus money for rail projects becomes available and powerful politicians in both San Jose and San Francisco push the HSR project. But none of these commission members reside here, and won’t live daily with the consequences and damage caused to Burlingame.
Unfortunately, a majority of voters in November 2008 approved Prop. 1A, authorizing the sale of $9 billion in bonds for high-speed rail. A year plus later, as more details about the HSR project are released, it seems like this wasn’t the project that voters would have been in support of if they had this information upfront.
The video below shows the three design options: an elevated HSR viaduct, an open trench & a cut & cover trench (tunnel).
What do you think about HSR? How do you think it will impact your community? I’d love to hear your views & concerns.