CHSRA and UPRR Are Talking

Aug 30th, 2009 | Posted by

Whether it’s a prelude to a grand bargain or not isn’t clear, but Gary Richards is reporting in the Mercury News today that UPRR and the CHSRA have begun discussions about resolving the dispute over the ROW between San José and Gilroy:

Officials with the railroad and the California High Speed Rail Authority confirmed that they have held discussions in hopes of resolving their differences, which if not settled soon could cost the rail authority $3 billion in federal stimulus aid and state bond money, delay construction in Northern California and leave in doubt the electrification of Caltrain….

“Our position continues to be the same as what we’ve said in the past,” Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange said from Omaha, Neb. “The high speeds of these trains is simply not compatible in our right of way.

“We’ve had discussions with them, but the bottom line is that safety comes first and foremost.”

There’s been a lot of discussion in the comments about whether running HSR trains on tracks near the UPRR tracks, but not in their ROW, would pose a safety hazard of any sort. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but UPRR’s position is clear, and with the recent ruling in Atherton v. CHSRA it’s clear that the issue has to be revisited. So it is good to hear that UPRR and CHSRA are talking, but it is quite unclear what are the substance of the talks and whether or not there’s any hope of forward momentum.

One problem is that the judge that issued the ruling in Atherton v. CHSRA, Michael Kenney, did not actually indicate what remedies the CHSRA must undertake to address the three specific problems with the EIR the judge found. Despite claims from Peninsula NIMBYs and HSR deniers like Richard Tolmach, the judge has not ruled that the entire EIR must be redone or that the judge found the choice of Pacheco Pass to connect the Bay Area to the Central Valley was flawed. And as Richards’ article makes clear, time is of the essence:

Timing is critical — and that has some officials saying the railroad’s stance is a negotiating ploy, partly because the line is lightly used. Currently, just 14 trains run each day between Gilroy and San Jose — six freight, six commuter and two Amtrak trains.

On Oct. 2, the rail authority plans to submit its application for federal stimulus money. It needs approval of those funds soon to meet Washington’s requirement that construction be under way by 2012.

If the judge rules that the entire environmental study be revisited, “that could be the death knell for construction on the Peninsula,” said high-speed board member Rod Diridon. “If it’s a remedial action, we can deal with that.”

The recent ruling may also delay Caltrain’s long-range plans to expand commuter service by converting its diesel trains to electric. This would enable the agency to speed up service and run more trains more quickly. It is relying heavily on stimulus cash to bankroll the $785 million initiative, $516 million of which is still unfunded.

Some will surely quibble, as they have in recent comments, that this shows the flaws of Diridon’s insistence on including the Peninsula corridor in the CHSRA application for federal HSR stimulus funds. Personally I think the CHSRA was right to be aggressive in pursuing these funds. But this does make clear that more than the old Altamont vs. Pacheco dispute is at stake here. Federal stimulus funds are necessary to get construction underway on the Peninsula – construction that, as Mike Scanlon pointed out Wednesday night, is vital to Caltrain’s survival.

As I have repeatedly predicted, the parties to this lawsuit have decided it is acceptable to risk the future of passenger rail in the Bay Area – including the HSR project and the very existence of Caltrain – to pick a fight over what is a comparatively small matter. True supporters of HSR would have accepted the Pacheco choice, worked to ensure it was built properly and with respect to the environment, rather than use that choice to try and blow up the whole project.

Still, it is good to see that CHSRA and UPRR are trying to be sensible about this and are talking to each other about the matter. These discussions can take quite a long time – UPRR has been dragging its feet on selling the Davenport-Pajaro line to Santa Cruz County for over 5 years now.

Tough negotiations with freight companies are nothing new. Twenty years ago, it took more than two years of talks before Caltrain agreed to buy the San Jose-to-San Francisco tracks from Southern Pacific for $242.3 million. Talks between the Valley Transportation Authority and Union Pacific dragged on for four years before the VTA agreed in 2002 to pay $80 million to run the BART-to-San Jose extension down the UP corridor between Fremont and San Jose.

“We’ve negotiated with them on several acquisitions, and they are very difficult negotiators,” VTA General Manager Michael Burns said. “They are a private company out to protect their interests.

“But I will be very surprised if at the end they don’t reach an agreement.”

This is why I believe a federal role is absolutely necessary to ensure these negotiations conclude quickly and fairly to all sides. Current federal law gives UPRR all the negotiating power, enabling a freight railroad whose operations often seem stuck in the middle of the 20th century to hold up the development of a modern 21st century passenger railroad network.

President Barack Obama has made high speed rail a key part of his administration’s vision for America’s future. But so far he seems to have emphasized HSR funding over the other key policy aspects of implementing HSR. Now I’m not going to complain that Obama wants to change 60 years of federal transportation policy and finally direct some real funds to HSR. And yet that’s not going to be enough to ensure HSR happens.

While I recognize that it is not Obama’s style to force or pressure anyone into doing anything, both the White House and the Congress – particularly California’s two powerful US Senators – need to be examining ways to modernize US railroad policy and legislation. In particular they need to redress the balance of power between the freight railroads, which are essentially private contractors for the federal government and who owe their very existence to the federal government, and the state and local passenger rail systems that the federal government wishes to promote and expand.

The best way to accomplish this would be to have Senator Feinstein or Senator Boxer help mediate these conversations, potentially alongside the Secretary of Transportation or even Vice-President “Amtrak Joe” Biden. They can encourage UPRR and CHSRA to quickly come to an agreement that satisfies both sides, while letting UPRR know that if they do not come to a quick agreement, then perhaps it would be time to change federal law to help provide entities like CHSRA a more level playing field – starting with eliminating the obsolete ban on states using eminent domain on federally-chartered railroads.

That would require a greater level of leadership from California’s federal representatives than we have yet seen on HSR. But it is now time for them to step up and prevent a signature project from falling into a morass.

  1. Anonymous
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 17:12
    #1

    Anon 11:52 here again,

    This post sounds like a lot of wishful thinking. On RTD's (Denver) East Corridor, we eventually had to stay outside of the UPRR ROW, but we were fortunate in that we were negotiating with them before our EIS was complete. Rerouting cost a lot of money, delayed the implementation schedule, and the planning agency took a lot of heat for lacking foresight. If they don't want to play ball, you have significant problems.

    Also, on a related point, is CA planning on using non-compliant FRA equipment? Is that what UP wants, FRA compliant equipment? This is another really risky decision. What if the FRA doesn't approve a waiver? I think UPRR's safety concerns are legit. I know there are light rail lines built next to (in?) their ROW, but they stopped allowing that for new construction after they had that accident in LA a few years back.

  2. Loren
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 17:40
    #2

    I find it hard to see what the big issue is. It's unlikely that CHSRA's high-speed trains will be sharing tracks with UP's freight trains, so CHSRA will have to have to build new tracks along UP's tracks.

  3. BruceMcF
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 19:10
    #3

    UP's expressed concern in that regard has been derailment liability where freight tracks and HSR tracks are side by side, sharing a right of way.

    This is an Express HSR corridor, so of course there is no track sharing between the Express HSR and heavy freight rail. What is at issue is proposed new track in existing right of way.

  4. Tony D.
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 19:31
    #4

    Rafael, Clem or anyone,

    Are there examples in other country's, or even on the east coast (Acela line?), were freight and HSR run side by side? And if so, how is safety addressed?

    Also, in re: to anon 11:52/6:12, I don't believe UPRR can do anything about HSR running OUTSIDE the ROW. And again using San Jose as an example, the Monterey Hwy corridor south of Lick/SJ to Gilroy is wide enough (and most likely owned by the state) to accomodate HSR.

    In the end I feel the "talking" will lead to a deal between UPRR/CAHSRA…sorry A$$ hole Tolmach!

  5. Tony D.
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 19:58
    #5

    One last question:

    The initial stimulus funds sought by the CAHSRA would go towards LA/Anaheim and SF/SJ (Caltrain). Why would the ROW situation between SJ-Gilroy have any bearing on whether the Peninsula line gets funded in the first round of HSR stimulus?

    While I would like a deal with UPRR and CAHSRA to happen sooner rather than later, SJ-Gilroy shouldn't effect whether the Peninsula/Caltrain line get's initial stimulus funds.

    Am I correct with this?

  6. Anonymous
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 19:59
    #6

    Yeah if you're outside the UP ROW, you should be golden, but that's easier said than done.

    You can run passenger trains on freight tracks (or ROW), but it causes operational issues and your trains need to be FRA compliant. No manufacturer makes and FRA compliant train that goes the speed of the CA system. The europeans and japanese make non compliant trains that go that fast, but its unclear that they would want to design or modify a train just for CA.

  7. Tony D.
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 20:29
    #7

    anon 8:10,

    It appears to me that the FRA, with a nudge from the Obama Administration, is going to have to alter its FRA compliant rules, especially for future high-speed systems that DON'T share track. A huge difference between SHARING track (current Caltrain) and building outside the ROW.

    The future is coming you know.

  8. Peter
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 21:22
    #8

    I understand that UP is looking to avoid potential liability in case of an accident between an HSR and a freight train.
    However, aren't safeguards being implemented to avoid most of the possible causes of accidents btwn HSR and freight? As in, full grade separation (cause of SOOO many accidents, including the Metrolink in 2005(?) that hit the freight train after derailing), concrete barriers btwn freight and HSR lines, etc?
    How likely is it that UPRR will refuse to let HSR use its ROW if all technical measures are utilized to mitigate the risks?
    I think UP will likely play ball as long as they don't have to foot the bill for the build. If HSR pays to relocate their tracks and build the barriers, what do they have to lose?

  9. Anonymous
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 22:24
    #9

    The railroads (both UP and BNSF) have absolutely no faith in the concrete barriers. How likely are they to survive an impact with either a 200 mph bullet train or a mile long freight train?

    They really do need to be separate and out of each other's ROW. Other states are looking at highway alignments to avoid this sort of conflict.

  10. Anonymous
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 22:25
    #10

    Or greenfield alignments.

  11. jim
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 22:57
    #11

    just put an elevated structure for hsr along the side of the UP row. takes up less of UPs space and keeps the hsr up off the ground and separate from the trains and everything else.

  12. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 03:48
    #12

    @ Tony D -

    in most other countries, railways rely on modern signaling to keep trains from colliding with one another on the same tracks and on maintenance to minimize the risk of derailments.

    As Caltrain has already shown via computer simulations, FRA-compliant equipment performs no better in grade crossing accidents than lightweight (but intelligently designed) UIC-compliant EMUs.

    Because Acela Express runs on legacy tracks in the NEC that are also used by FRA-compliant passenger and the odd freight train, FRA forced Bombardier to add lots of steel to the Acela Express, an active tilt design. This has made it more dangerous as well as more expensive to run and especially, to maintain. Basically, the intervals went from 400,000 to 20,000 miles thanks to FRA.

    CHSRA should not need active tilt trains or FRA compliance since it's building brand-new tracks separate from those used by freight trains. Sharing ROW is not at all the same thing as sharing track.

    FRA has published some research that may be germaine to our discussion:

    Aerodynamic Effects of High Speed Trains

    Aerodynamic Effects of Passing Trains to Surrounding Objects

    General Health Effects of Transportation Noise

  13. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 04:15
    #13

    CHSRA could construct gantries above the UPRR ROW down to Gilroy and lay its tracks on top of those. The gantry columns would feature a core strong enough to support the weight of the FRA tracks and trains, even in an earthquake.

    That would eliminate aerodynamic interactions and risks related to most cargo spills and minor derailments of the small number of FRA-compliant trains running at grade level.

    To help protect the gantry columns against a more serious derailment, the at-grade tracks would have to be kept in a state of good repair. The HSR infrastructure operator would use CCTV cameras, microphones and analysis software to increase the chances of detecting the early stages of a derailment, possibly before the affected train's engineer becomes aware of it.

    Unless a human operator overrides the command within a few seconds, the software would automatically activate the brakes of the affected train and if need be, those of other trains approaching the site via the positive train control systems to be installed for both the FRA and the HSR tracks. Fine tuning such hair-trigger alarm systems is a bit of an art, though. You really don't want too many false alarms, but you don't want to miss the one that counts, either.

    Finally, the gantry columns could be protected against low-speed impacts with suitable crumple zone elements (local buckling). However, if a 120 ton locomotive decides to go AWOL at a fair clip, all bets are off.

    At the end of the day, life is risk. You can't bring it down to zero. UPRR's liability would have to be high enough to deter it from cutting corners but capped at some amount. Trackage fees and/or the sale of the air rights would have to cover the cost of UPRR's insurance against that liability.

    If that still doesn't satisfy UPRR or they insist on dicking around for five years while it's all being researched, the only viable alternative is to get out of UPRR's hair altogether. More on how that could be accomplished in the San Jose-Gilroy section will be the topic of tomorrow's post.

    Teaser: phase 3 to Walnut Creek, anyone?

  14. Joe Sez
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 06:09
    #14

    Assuring safety is ultimately a government function.

    There is a legal aspect, what can be certified safe under the law and the physics of safety, what can be engineered safe.

    FRA issuing a waiver solves a legal problem.

    Explicitly identifying where tracks will sit is more physics.

    Finally the demonstration via simulation and or real world examples that a operational design is safe.

  15. BruceMcF
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 06:20
    #15

    Gantries?

    Its a 6 freight train per day line … how many tracks wide are you thinking it is?

    A raised alignment is one way to address the liability risk of risk of falling onto or spilling into the HSR track, but surely there is no need to place the viaduct on top of the freight track, and the vertical separation required is nowhere near as high. It seems like an infilled wall elevation four or five feet high with a concrete barrier on top would mean the train could not break through the barrier in a derailment, and the concrete wall to protect from spillage would be the same height above the heavy rail railhead in any case.

    Of course, that agreement would also mean minimizing the use of UP alignments to those that are absolutely necessary.

  16. Rob Dawg
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 06:21
    #16

    Successfully negotiate with UPRR = more money not in the business plan.

    Separate ROW = more money not in the business plan.

    "Gantries" = more money not in the business plan and an absolute necessity for an entirely new EIR.

    Political leadership would be welcome but they better bring a checkbook.

  17. BruceMcF
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 06:31
    #17

    @Tony D: they can also opt to establish a distinct new set of regulations … there is no physical reason why there has to be a single system of regulations for trains to be "compliant" with. Two or three different classes of system, and then there are two or three different classes of "FRA compliant".

    Of course, the same FRA bureaucrats that seem like an impenetrable brick wall when facing cities that want to complicate important things like serving the major freight railroads are not necessarily going to be the same brick walls if faced with a President and Secretary of Transport and Congressional Majorities who want to make HSR happen.

  18. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 06:55
    #18

    @ BruceMcF, RobDawg -

    between Lick and Capitol Caltrain, the ROW only wide enough for two tracks side-by-side. That was the section for which I was suggesting 2×2 track stacking via gantries. Perhaps "portals" would be a better word, what I mean is columns well to either side of the FRA tracks, connected by a horizontal beam.

    South of Capitol Caltrain, there's a strip of land between the UPRR tracks and the traffic lanes on the Monterey Hwy. Parts of it may be wide enough to support two additional tracks, next to the UPRR tracks. That might not to be case everywhere, though.

    CHSRA was planning to use a combination of aerials, embankments and cut/fill to enable roads to stay at grade or else, split grade crossings. None of the new tracks would run at grade and perhaps CHSRA was counting on grade separating UPRR's tracks as well.

    However, a standard aerial with a single row of columns supporting two HSR tracks would also implement full grade separation for those only.

  19. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 07:00
    #19

    The SJ Mercury article quotes Richard Tolmach as saying the UPRR wouldn't sell the whole ROW between SJ Diridon and Gilroy as replacing this backup corridor would cost them a king's ransom.

    I don't believe it was ever CHSRA's intention to usurp the entire ROW, just to acquire a slice of it wide enough to support two grade separated tracks. The possibility of acquiring air rights and stacking tracks does not appear to have factored into Mr. Tolmach's assessment.

  20. looking on
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 07:09
    #20

    Rafael and others:

    If your so inclined to propose exotic solutions to go SJ to Gilroy, why not propose solutions that don't use the CalTrain ROW on the Peninsula.

    Why can't such solutions apply to using 101 or 280. Yes these were studied. They should be re-studied with the end result being that this train not come down the Peninsula using the CalTrain corridor. Yea, poor CalTrain will have to go elsewhere to get its grade crossings and change over to electricity. The Cities won't have to deal with 200 trains a day. They won't have to deal with 6 – 8 years of construction either.

    Why can such solutions be applied to go from SJ to Altamont, inspite of the previously available corridor, which has now been promised to BART. As for that matter, why can't it be taken back from BART?

    Pacheco is lousy for lots of reasons, even though the court has thus far said it is environmentally ok.

  21. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 07:36
    #21

    As for that matter, why can't it be taken back from BART?

    There are six and half billion reasons why. You can guess what they are.

  22. biker
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 08:34
    #22

    Rafael – thanks to the links on the FRA studies. "Aerodynamic effects from passingtrains on surrounidng objects" raises some questions about the caltrain row:

    "A person in proximity to a train passing at high speeds can experience destabilizing effects of the aerodynamic force created by the train. Debris can be blown and objects and equipment can be pushed onto the passing trains."

    and

    "Train-induced airflow in itself is unlikely to be strong enough to propel a solid object such as a rock. However, any particles on the track agitated by the turbulent airflow and its buffeting effect, if struck by the train especially at the underside of a car, can cause the particle to become a fast moving projectile. This would propel it in the direction of the train unless it is deflected outward to the platform. A person on the trackside or low-level platform would be most vulnerable to this hazard. o Rolling objects put into motion by the aerodynamic drag of the train-induced airflow are a safety issue. A light cart can roll into and be struck by the train causing it to be propelled back onto the platform. The same risk would apply to a baby carriage with potential disastrous consequences if a baby should be in the carriage. o People on a station platform can be of different heights and different degrees of agility and strength. A small child could be exposed to greater airflow. People that are frail or the elderly would be less stable than the average adult."

    The report gives a rule of thumb for public safety distances in stations (assuming something similar applies to non-station points along the tracks where people could be regularly in cloe proximity?):
    Minimum distance from outer edge of nearest rail – 2.33 Meters (about 8 feet, right?) 8 feet on either edge of rails – that's 16 feet 'safety' perimiter on either side of the train.

    Did CHSRA include safety distances in the ROW width requiremetns in the EIR? (and resulting additional land use requirements/eminent domain cost (Eminent domain or reverse comdenation?)

    The caltrain route runs through 50 miles of residental neighorhoods directly abutting to many schools, parks, residental backyards, and heavily traveled school routes, bike paths, etc.

    How realitic has the EIR been on this matter?

  23. mike
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 09:05
    #23

    Did CHSRA include safety distances in the ROW width requiremetns in the EIR?

    Yes.

    How realitic has the EIR been on this matter?

    Completely. The space required on either side for catenary poles, ballast, service vehicle access, etc. is larger than the aerodynamic safety margin anyway, so it's a moot point.

    Also note that there is some chance that outer tracks on the Peninsula may not be Class 7 (125 mph) anyway, unless Clem gets his wish for "slow trains keep left." But even so, there would not be no problem.

  24. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 09:19
    #24

    One wreck with fatalities and all your FRA waivers are toast. Why should the FRA take any chances when all the recriminations will be on them for being lax?

  25. 無名 – wu ming
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 09:21
    #25

    give richard blum a contract, and you'll attract feinstein's attention.

  26. Wayne
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 09:28
    #26

    One wreck with fatalities and all your FRA waivers are toast. Why should the FRA take any chances when all the recriminations will be on them for being lax?

    Do you see that happening on the DC Metro?

    CAHSR is a CLOSED system. None of the high speed tracks will be used by heavy rail, an no slow speed tracks will be used by HSR trains. ROW sharing is not the same as track sharing – DC Metro, the NYC subway, BART, and many other systems share ROW with FRA-compliant tracks.

  27. 無名 – wu ming
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 09:29
    #27

    additionally, i don't know about the peninsula's real estate situation right now, but i would be willing to bet that one could draw an unbroken line between bakersfield and sacramento just using foreclosed vacant houses and bankrupt farms.

  28. biker
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 09:30
    #28

    Mike, I thought there was an opening statement in the EIR that said HSR needed 100ft row minimum.

    But so when we hear people on this blog talking about 70-75ft, that includes everthing including 16 feet outer permiter safety margins (plus appropriate width between tracks, the catenary poles, service vehicle access, and all that?) Good to know, thanks.

  29. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 09:41
    #29

    Its all in the spin, isn't it:

    "But Tom Lange, Union Pacific director of corporate communications, Thursday told the Weekly that communications between the two agencies as discussions — "not negotiations."

    "Our position continues to be that high-speed rail at the speed being discussed for this line is just not compatible with our trains," he said.

  30. mike
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 09:43
    #30

    But so when we hear people on this blog talking about 70-75ft, that includes everthing including 16 feet outer permiter safety margins

    Yes. With 8' margins from the edge of the outer rails on either side, you need about 66' total (you can see this from ROW cross-sections posted on Clem's blog, among other places). But the catenary poles take up space, and you want service vehicles to be able to access the tracks, etc., so CHSRA has been talking about 72' or so being the minimum ROW width for 4 tracks in standard configuration.

  31. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:12
    #31

    @ looking on -

    track stacking isn't something you'd do voluntarily but SF Muni Subway and BART did just that down Market St in SF.

    If you want HSR tracks to run on an aerial above the Caltrain tracks in narrow sections of ROW in the peninsula, that's certainly a technically feasible solution. However, Caltrain already runs close to 100 trains total each weekday and is looking to double that number by 2025.

    Elevating HSR tracks but keeping Caltrain at grade delivers virtually all of the downsides (visual impact, noise) of an aerial and retains those already present (grade crossing safety, noise, few cross-roads/bike underpasses, suicide magnet). There are also plenty of existing road grade separations in the peninsula corridor.

    In the Atherton-Palo Alto section, they're all underpasses except for the San Antonio overpass which is too narrow for four tracks side by side. Afaik, it's old and not up to seismic code. It may already have been slated for replacement real soon now before CHSRA ever showed up, but it may get stuck with the bill for actually doing it.

    According to the relevantROW map Clem has kindly provided here, the railroad ROW at the location of the overpass is 100 feet, easily enough for four tracks. It's just that the overpass wasn't built wide enough to actually make that possible. If the overpass stays, the tracks will have to descend into a shallow dip to achieve the requisite vertical clearance (extra if UPRR insists on AAR plate H support). Freight trains limit the gradient of elevation transitions to 1%, so even a shallow trench has to be long and therefore expensive.

    By comparison, the total number of trains running on the at-grade tracks between San Jose and Gilroy is just 14, so above-ground stacking is a more viable approach there if no land next to the legacy FRA track(s) can be obtained.

    There are other approaches for stacking, e.g. two at grade and two underground or two elevated and two underground or all four underground (but not side-by-side). Each has pros and cons. Afaik, CHSRA is looking at some or all of these stacking options for the handful of sections in the corridor that are less than 70 feet wide – the number HNTB's Dominic Spaethling considers the minimum required for four tracks side-by-side. Depending on the chosen solution and its construction method, additional width may be required for temporary shoofly tracks during the construction period. All of this is factored into the decision-making process at the project level.

    Downtown San Mateo is tricky because building are close to the narrow ROW on both sides. As in Fullerton, CHSRA may end up have to stack tracks here, preferably grade separating all four.

    Three tracks side-by-side would introduce a single-track bottleneck into the HSR network. Accidental collisions could be reliably avoided via the automatic train control feature of the signaling system, but ultimate capacity would suffer. The question boils down to how much ridership there will really be for HSR. The only certainty is that once the grade separation works are built, it will not be possible to add tracks at a later date.

  32. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:13
    #32

    @ looking on -

    Wrt 101: there is no available median there. It's been used for carpool lanes. Get Caltrans to sacrifice those (good luck) and you might end up with a shooting solution south of Sierra Point (Brisbane). Otherwise, fuggedaboudit. Also – surprise! – the 101 median between Las Plumas Ave and Alum Rock Ave in San Jose is already reserved for the BART extension. It's just a couple of thousand feet, but without those, the subway trains cannot turn the corner to the Alum Rock station and descent below the creek just west of it.

    Note that stations in freeway medians are almost by definition far from where passengers actually live so they have to drive there. Finding room for parking lots within walking distance might be tricky.

    Also, no electrification and no full grade separation for Caltrain, i.e. it could wither on the vine because diesel is expensive to operate and BART will suck up whatever subsidies Santa Clara county has available. San Jose doesn't care much for Caltrain, many of its worker bees sleep in the East Bay.

    Wrt 280: similar to 101, but also twisty and steep in places. No way to run tracks into downtown SF, no downtowns served along the route, SFO not served, downtown San Jose bypassed (nearest VTA light rail would be Parkmoor/Race and 280 is in a bend there – HSR needs straight platforms 1/4 mile long.

  33. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:21
    #33

    @ anon @ 10:28am -

    baloney. There have been plenty of crashes between FRA-compliant trains, e.g. the Metrolink disaster at Chatsworth. The only way to prevent that is to stop being such frickin' cheapskates and invest in signaling systems that automatically fail-safes before a driver runs a red light or if he breaks the speed limit. Such systems have been in use in many other countries for decades and they work just dandy.

    Once you have proper signaling, you no longer need to make passenger trains twice as heavy as they need to be. That saves money of equipment purchases, fuel and maintenance.

  34. QV
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:23
    #34

    @ Rafael

    I have not looked at the ROW maps from CAHSR yet, but on Google Earth the ROW looks wide enough for 4 tracks nearly all the way from Tamien to Capitol. There are even 3 tracks much of the way. South of Capitol, I agree, there appears to be enough space.

    How fast does the train need to travel between Tamien and Capitol?

  35. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:30
    #35

    @ biker -

    the 100ft figure may have included room for temporary shoofly tracks during construction. Whether those are needed depends on the type of grade separation chosen and the method for constructing it.

    According to HNTB, the consultants on the SF-SJ section, 70' is enough for the permanent structure. The plan of record is to run the fast trains in the middle, which means their tracks need greater than usual track separation due the the relative speed of 250mph. CPUC requires 14 feet between the centerlines of adjacent standard speed tracks. Figure ~20' between the fast tracks + 2 x 14' to the slow track + 2 x ~11' foot safety margin to the edge of the ROW.

    Of course 75' or more is better, but if push comes to shove, 70' will do.

  36. jim
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:37
    #36

    off topic -this just in:Metrolink Board Votes to Pursue Contract with Amtrak 08/31/2009 09:33 (Metrolink)
    At today’s Board of Directors meeting, the Metrolink Board voted to negotiate a proposed contract for train engineer and conductor services with Amtrak

    yay for us.

  37. jim
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:37
    #37

    …today metrolink, tomorrow, the world.

  38. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:39
    #38

    @ QV -

    given the chicane just south of 280, HSR trains will not be racing through south San Jose at ludicrous speed. That's not the issue. The fact that HSR trains and FRA-compliant trains must never ever run on the same tracks is. It's not that HSR trains can't run slowly on FRA tracks, it's that FRA simply doesn't permit it and UPRR wouldn't, either.

    UPRR perceives HSR as encroaching on one of its core assets. It doesn't matter that there's money on the table for the ROW – it's not one UPRR is interested in selling. The company is in the profitable business of hauling heavy freight as inexpensively as possible and just wants to be left alone.

    They're not NIMBYs so much as NIMROWs, but it boils down to the same thing.

  39. flowmotion
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:41
    #39

    @ Rafael –

    Of course you are just speaking rhetorically, but it's doubtful there would be enough room in the 101 medium even if the center lanes were eliminated. In many places they are just converted shoulders.

    Additionally, MTC has those claimed those lanes for their express tolling project, so it would also eliminate a future transit funding source.

  40. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:42
    #40

    @ jim -

    "…today metrolink, tomorrow, the world."

    Well, we'll always have Perris.

  41. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:45
    #41

    @ flowmotion -

    a 12' highway lane is tight, it's may not be safe to run at more than 80mph cruise speed (cp. BART).

  42. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:45
    #42

    Figure ~20' between the fast tracks

    Note on LGV Est (state of the art HSR) track spacing is less than 15 feet, with closing velocities of 400 mph.

    20' track spacing will never be required anywhere on the peninsula. 15 feet is more like it.

  43. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 11:17
    #43

    A 101 alignment would feature the same type of elevated envisioned for the Caltrain corridor. The overpasses will have to be raised. After the next Big One they will be mandated to be redone anyway.

  44. AndyDuncan
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 11:20
    #44

    70' is possible for four tracks alongside each other but not much else. The LA-Anaheim Alternatives Analysis has 85' listed as the minimum for the Fullerton-Anaheim section (Page 41) as it includes a concrete barrier between the FRA tracks and the HSR tracks.

    Why would the caltrain corridor not require the same kind of barrier as the Anaheim section?

  45. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 11:28
    #45

    @ anon @ 11:45am -

    RFF has inherited the network with the tightest track centerlines in Europe. If 15' is enough, hooray, but how about 16.5'? That would give each passenger 3" more hip room and make the aisle 6" wider. You know Californians are "hipsters", right?

  46. AndyDuncan
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 11:36
    #46

    (And they're using 15'-on-center for their diagrams)

  47. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 11:41
    #47

    A 101 alignment would feature the same type of elevated envisioned for the Caltrain corridor. The overpasses will have to be raised. After the next Big One they will be mandated to be redone anyway.

    There's no way that an elevated berm could go down 101, as proposed for the Caltrain corridor. I'm not sure if you think that there are BART-style viaducts being considered for the Caltrain area (there aren't to my knowledge), or if you're just confused.

  48. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 11:46
    #48

    @ AndyDuncan -

    Clem has described the daily routine of Freight on the Peninsula. Typically, only one freight train per day (each way) runs on the Caltrain corridor at appreciable speed and it does so in the evening or at night – UPRR isn't big on timetables.

    If UPRR were to insist on a barrier thingie for the peninsula, PCJPB could invoke its "nuclear option" enshrined in the 1991 contract to unilaterally shut down heavy freight service because a change in the parameters of the commuter service force it to do so. It would be a drastic step that neither UPRR nor Caltrain are interested in making.

    In general, UPRR's strategy is not to seek an accommodation with HSR but rather, to force CHSRA to go pound sand. That's why they're asserting point blank that HSR is incompatible with heavy freight operations in the rights of ways that they own outright.

    The Anaheim-Fullerton section belongs to SCRRA (Metrolink). BNSF has a an easement to run some freight trains, there's a transshipment terminal for imported cars in Chula Vista. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner has trackage rights. Metrolink has to operate on a shoestring budget and is extra-sensitive to operational safety issues in the aftermath of the Chatsworth disaster.

    So, the definition of "safe enough" is not uniform.

  49. jim
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 11:56
    #49

    Can't some one just give UP a call and ask them what they plan to do?

  50. TomW
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 12:08
    #50

    "perhaps it would be time to change federal law to help provide entities like CHSRA a more level playing field – starting with eliminating the obsolete ban on states using eminent domain on federally-chartered railroads."

    Is it definately the case that states cannot take land from railroads?

    Also, was UP federally chartered? What about the railroad which actually first built the relevanrt chunk of RoW? If the answers to taht are yes and no respectively, then it could be argued that the latter applies to his stratech of track.

  51. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 12:11
    #51

    Rafael:

    A spoksman from the Peninsula Freight Rail Users group spoke to the PCC in Palo Alto last Friday.

    He said there were 5 or 6 freight trains a day on the line; not one.

    I am ignorant on the details, but there is something called Short Line; is this another RR that uses the corridor?

    In any case this group has 25 users and they want their freight service continued. The have the support of ports etc.

    People living close to the tracks all confirm many more than one per day. Some say three. Some have other numbers. But it is much more than one per day.

  52. AndyDuncan
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 12:12
    #52

    So, the definition of "safe enough" is not uniform.

    Is the plan on the peninsula for Caltrain to get an FRA exemption allowing them to run lightweight EMUs on the same tracks as the freight line and also have separate, dedicated HSR lines?

  53. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 12:15
    #53

    @ anon @ 12:17pm -

    A 101 alignment would feature the same type of elevated envisioned for the Caltrain corridor.

    Uhm, no. It would be exceedingly difficult to build massive elevated structures in the middle of a busy freeway. Either you lay tracks in an available median or you have available land right next to the freeway.

    The overpasses will have to be raised.

    Uhm, why? If your train is too tall to fit under an existing overpass at a freeway, use overhead contactor rails and/or you dig a shallow trench, and/or live with the fact that single-level trains are all you'll ever be able to operate on that alignment.

    After the next Big One they will be mandated to be redone anyway.

    On that basis, let's just all live in tents from now on. After the quake is before the quake.

  54. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 12:40
    #54

    "Uhm, no. It would be exceedingly difficult to build massive elevated structures in the middle of a busy freeway."

    If that's true, how did they build the elevated HOV lanes over the Harbor Freeway? Nothing in Northern California compares to the traffic in LA.

  55. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 12:47
    #55

    @ anon @ 1:11pm -

    UPRR has no fixed number of freight trains that it is allowed to run.

    Smaller trains aggregate freight from individual customers in the Port of SF to the yard in south SF and, from customers further south to San Jose.

    At the end of the day/at night, the Mission Bay Hauler picks up the aggregated consist from the south SF yard, tacks on the aggragated consist in San Jose and moves the whole thing to the marshaling yard in Fremont. To the best of my knowledge, that last movement happens via the Alviso line.

    At this point, I should clarify that while heavy freight in the peninsula threatens to make the grade separation works more expensive and uglier than necessary for passenger rail alone, I'm not in fact advocating that freight rail service be terminated altogether.

    Designating the peninsula a short line would limit the axle loads and train lengths to enable steeper and more frequent elevation transitions. In practice, that means rail cars cannot be loaded up to their nominal capacity and lighter locomotives would have to be used. That increase shipping cost, so the economic impact of that has to be weighed against the expected incremental cost of accommodating heavy freight after the corridor is upgraded.

    Check out Clem's post on Port Pork for a sense of what "AAR plate H" actually means in the real world. UPRR, for its part, wants full grade separation against HSR for every active freight spur. That's a full rail overpass over every freight spur!

  56. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 12:49
    #56

    Is the plan on the peninsula for Caltrain to get an FRA exemption allowing them to run lightweight EMUs on the same tracks as the freight line

    No, on the same tracks as diesel Caltrain. The transition to EMUs will not be like flipping a switch: there will be a several-year period when they operate alongside each other.

  57. QV
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 12:55
    #57

    If that's true, how did they build the elevated HOV lanes over the Harbor Freeway? Nothing in Northern California compares to the traffic in LA.

    By closing the Harbor Freeway once a week!

  58. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 13:24
    #58

    Tony etc.

    The MAXIMUM width of the UP corridor south of SJ is 60 feet. IF UP wants a corridor, it will insist on at least 50 feet, leaving 0-10 feet for HSR. Even narrowing the MH won't give you enough room.

    So from SJ to Gilroy (30 miles, 20 miles of which have adjacent businesses and homes) you are either buying ROW and/or doing some incredibly expensive elevated structure a la BART without achieving grade separation and/or reconfiguring the Monterey Highway.

    FWIW, a large portion of the Monterey Highway is not owned by the State. The southern half used to be 101 and when the new 101 was developed the State gave Monterey Highway to the various cities. One of which, Morgan Hill, does NOT want the HSR going along the Monterey Highway. That would be really fun – an eminent domain battle between the state and a city.

    And then let's say UP decides to sell corridor. What do you think the cost of a 30 mile ROW is for a desperate buyer? A 30 mile ROW which isn't even wide enough for both HSR and commuter service? A ROW parallel to an access road with frequent cross streets that will require an elevated structure for grade separations (akin to Alma)?

    All of these alternatives are expensive and a high impact on surrounding communities. All of which were blatantly ignored in the EIR.

    The EIR called for a grade level solution whose grand sum impact would be a "new visual element".

    I can't believe that none of you are calling for heads to roll.

  59. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 13:30
    #59

    @ AndyDuncan -

    Caltrain's own electrification plans call for two phases: SF-SJ and SJ-Gilroy. At this point, they're short over $500 million because Santa Clara county is ploughing every last cent into the BART extension to Santa Clara. Lots of San Jose's worker bees live in the East Bay and get stuck in traffic on I-880 and I-680 every day. Commuter traffic into San Jose via Caltrain is light.

    Caltrain sees electrification as a do-or-whither-on-the-vine project, which is where HSR comes in. It will bring the electrical substation, the poles etc. Caltrain can piggy-back off that effort at low cost, essentially that of stringing its wires and the additional electrical capacity at the substations.

    There's no decision yet on whether Caltrain's baby bullet service will survive the arrival of true bullet trains. For now, the plan of record is that it should and that Caltrain is asking for a waiver to operate non-compliant EMU equipment alongside a few of its own FRA-compliant diesel trains and UPRR freight trains. Amtrak California is said to be mulling a revival of the Coast Daylight trains between SF and LA. All of the would run on the standard gauge tracks, protected by modern signaling including a TBD technology for implementing positive train control.

    Only the EMU trains would be used for baby bullet service. Since those and the true bullet trains are both non-compliant, permission to share track is expected to be given. Without it, Caltrain could not reach the Transbay Terminal. I can just hear Nancy Pelosi give RayLaHood an earful if that were to be the rule FRA makes up.

    Fortunately, FRA isn't completely inept. They'd actually love to see everyone upgrade their signaling and perform virtual crash simulations of the gear they'd like to purchase. It's just that margins on bulk freight are low so the freight rail operators have to be frugal about investments. Over the years, this penny-pinching has become second nature to the regulators as well – the freight rail industry has a powerful lobby on Capitol Hill.

    That said, Caltrain may conclude that three levels of service may be too complex relative to the incremental benefit. It may make sense to instead operate a new "Caltrain HiSpeed" regional true bullet service alongside the sped-up locals. Passengers in a hurry would make timed cross-platform transfers at Millbrae, the mid-peninsula station (RWC or PA) or San Jose.

    Some HiSpeed trains would serve Gilroy, especially if Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties rustle up popular connecting services. If the PCJPB wants to, it could even expand to include Merced. This would make sense if Silicon Valley companies decide to move some of their back office/data center operations there to protect against seismic risk and capacity constraints in the Bay Area's electricity grid.

    There may also be greentech companies with labs in the Bay Area and pilot/commercial plants in the Cantral Valley.

    Deliberately turning Merced into a bedroom community isn't attractive to Bay Area politicians, since their voters care about keeping house prices in Silicon Valley propped up via zoning laws (until the congestion becomes unbearable).

  60. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 13:31
    #60

    It would be exceedingly difficult to build massive elevated structures in the middle of a busy freeway.

    Exceedingly is a relevent word – isn't it. Its about time this option were studied for real. If its already been studied, where's the detail?

    The fact is, it was dismissed out of hand because reconstructing freeway overpasses was compared to a terribly lowballed and "exceedingly" oversimplified caltrain row option.

    Shutting down the freeway once a week – fine! bring it on. This is a temporary building period, if they can rebuild the bay bridge, they can do this.

    In fact the real reason it was dismissed out of hand was because it would then be way too convenient to make the San Jose station at SJ Airport – foregoing Diridon all together, which of course would be unacceptable.

  61. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 13:45
    #61

    @ anon @ 2:24pm -

    I think it's a fairly safe bet that certain members of the board, perhaps even certain individuals on the engineering staff will be asked to collect their belongings if Atherton vs. CHSRA ends up being much more than a storm in a teacup.

    The CHSRA board is appointed by the Governor and the state legislature. My understanding is that these appointments are open-ended but revokable.

  62. AndyDuncan
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 13:48
    #62

    Ah yes, the Lovely, Easily constructed, Property value increasing, Harbor Freeway.

    Peninsula NIMBYs: You don't want it, trust us.

  63. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 13:59
    #63

    @ AndyDuncan -

    I see … concrete people.

  64. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 14:03
    #64

    Colorado is planning its HSR system:

    Here are the minutes of the July 30 meeting which show how it is dealing with the UP and BNSF RR issue. Lines in green are where the freight railroads currently have track.

    http://rockymountainrail.org/documents/RMRAExecutiveCommitteeMtg7-30-09.pdf

  65. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 14:20
    #65

    Rafael-

    The terms are 4 years, non revocable. No senate confirmation required.

    The eventual legal outcome does not change the mess on the ground. Someone should be held accountable.

  66. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 14:28
    #66

    @ anon @ 3:20pm -

    ah, thx for the correction. Well, there's always the option of setting up a new organization with new statutes and handing over responsibility of the entire project to that. Some of the current crew would be asked to join the new one for the sake of continuity, others would not.

    I've long thought that this project is large and will materially affect so many people in all of its phases that the head of the project management team should be an elected, rather than an appointed official. That's highly unusual for a civil engineering effort, but $33 billion isn't chump change.

  67. BruceMcF
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 14:46
    #67

    @Anonymous2:31: You are still needing to argue that failing to electrify the Caltrain corridor is a net win for anyone. That is taking a gamble on our country's immunity from oil price shocks that the impact of a modest $140/barrel oil prices in the middle of last year really ought to have settled.

    In terms of transport services, Caltrain can have EMUs with the same trip speed as Baby Bullets and with more stations, or with the same stations as Baby Bullets and faster trips, and the locals and expresses get a similar speed boost as well.

    Starting from setting the cost of the upset of the delicate sensibilities of PA HS students if there is a wall rising behind the stadium visitor's stand against the electrification and full grade separation of the Caltrain corridor as a benefit …

    … and coming up with an urgent need to put up a massive viaduct paralleling the Caltrain corridor instead and leaving the Caltrain services to languish …

    … it really does look like letting the tail wag the dog even as far as Peninsula interests themselves go. The Peninsula gains far more protection of its property values via an effective electrified passenger corridor than can possibly be lost with any visual impact of any grade separations.

  68. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 14:46
    #68

    Uhhh… breaking news, just in, the CHSRA Board front!

    Revokable terms, appointed by whomever, it's the *consultants* who run the show.

    The doofuses up on the stage at the monthly (or however seldom we can get away with) meetings are just there to do what they're told.

    That's the way things work *everywhere*, and *always have*.

    I mean, have you *heard* the sorts of things those clowns say? Read the minutes, or worse, listen to the recordings of one of those meetings. You'll want to gouge your ears out out as soon as any of them say anything extraneous beyond voting "aye" to the staff recommendation.

    I for one welcome our new Parsons Brinkerhoff overlords.

  69. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 15:02
    #69

    Three cheers for Parsons Brinckerhoff.

    Let the engineering commence!

  70. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 15:04
    #70

    "While I recognize that it is not Obama's style to force or pressure anyone into doing anything"

    Still wearing your Obama-colored glasses? This doesn't sound like not pressuring anyone:

    "One Democratic wag comments that Rahm Emanuel is to the Blue Dogs what Michael Vick was to pit bulls. In the beginning he feeds them steak, then they get torn apart."

    http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez/2009/08/31/rahming-things-through/

  71. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 15:07
    #71

    @ anon @ 3:03pm -

    if they're only going to run at 90mph and their route runs in giant ring around the entire city of Denver, who exactly do the RMRA folks think is going to ride their trains?

    Trains need to go downtown, even if it's at 79mph tops. In rural areas, land for dedicated new tracks is easier to come by.

    The route west in the I-70 corridor looks ambitious. Steep terrain + winter = adventures in railroading. This is more like it!

  72. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 15:25
    #72

    Anon 3:03

    They want to run 220 mph trains to downtown denver (to Union Station, Denver's equivalent of the transbay terminal: http://www.denverunionstation.org/), the question is what's the best way to get there.

    After this analysis was performed (http://rockymountainrail.org/documents/RMRA_AltEvalWkshp_04.24.09_PM_Final.pdf) it was determined that the state needed a backup in case the freight RR did not want to play ball. Ideally you'd use the UP and BNSF ROW (in green), but the same issues you are experiencing in CA will arise. So the agency will also look at the route in blue that, though longer, uses public ROW.

    You are right about I-70. The interstate rises to over 11,000 feet.

  73. Peter
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 16:29
    #73

    @ Anon 11:52, I believe (forget if it was you who raised this)

    I finally found the statute I was looking for. Amtrak DOES have the ability to exercise eminent domain against a rail carrier property interest in accordance with 49 U.S.C.A. § 24311 if:

    1) Amtrak and a rail carrier cannot agree on a sale to Amtrak of an interest in property of a rail carrier necessary for intercity rail passenger transportation;

    2) Amtrak applies to the Interstate Commerce Commission for an order establishing the need of Amtrak for the interest and requiring the carrier to convey the interest on reasonable terms, including just compensation.

    If the above requirements are met, the need of Amtrak is deemed to be established, and the Commission, after holding an expedited proceeding and not later than 120 days after receiving the application, shall order the interest conveyed unless the Commission decides that

    a)conveyance would impair significantly the ability of the carrier to carry out its obligations as a common carrier; and

    b) the obligations of Amtrak to provide modern, efficient, and economical rail passenger transportation can be met adequately by acquiring an interest in other property, either by sale or by exercising its right of eminent domain under subsection (a) of this section.

    This statute clearly gives the Interstate Commerce Commission the power to convey rail property to Amtrak under certain conditions.

    Sooooooo, my proposal is to get Amtrak involved in the ROW acquisition. Possibly CHSRA would have to make a deal with Amtrak to have them operate the system once completed (they've already stated their interest in doing so). If they get involved, and CHSRA bankrolls their bid for purchase of the UPRR ROW, then that would be a HUGE negotiating tool against UPRR.

  74. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 17:12
    #74

    @ Peter -

    gotta love the legal eagles: they sure know how to get others to start a fight only they know how to end.

    Before anyone even threatens to exercise eminent domain, let's see of Bob Doty and his counterpart at UPRR can get to the bottom of this notion of a speed incompatibility between services running on adjacent but sufficiently distant tracks.

    Get them to cough up specific safety-related performance targets that would have to be achieved for compatibility and a coherent justification for those threshold numbers. If they're not willing to do that, their argument is BS and all they're really saying is "Get off my lawn!" That could be spun into a PR debacle for them.

    Only then can a discussion about air rights etc. have any chance of success. In the meantime, CHSRA needs to develop a plan B, if only to regain control of the project timeline.

  75. Peter
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 17:18
    #75

    @ Rafael

    I wasn't proposing that we bypass negotiations. Of course eminent domain is drastic, premature, and a PR nightmare. I was just pointing out that the option IS there, despite the fact that a number of others have stated that one can't use eminent domain against a railroad.

  76. Peter
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 17:33
    #76

    AND I realize that wasn't clear from my earlier post. My apologies. IF UPRR continues being, perhaps unreasonably, protective of the ROW, THEN I suggest Amtrak get involved and begin throwing eminent domain around…

  77. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 17:36
    #77

    @ Peter -

    ok, good to know you're just looking at options.

    In legal terms, is Amtrak California (Caltrans Division of Rail) considered to be on an equal footing with the national Amtrak organization?

    Amtrak California operate Pacific Surfliner, Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains, but no interstate routes. Amtrak also operates Caltrain for PCJPA, but I don't know if it's the state or the national Amtrak organization that does that. I'm sure Jim would know.

    If it strengthens the state's negotiating position, getting Amtrak California involved might be possible. The Division of Rail is headed up by Bill Bronte.

    Note that back when AB3034 was being hashed out, a state lawmaker – I forget who – proposed setting up a whole new Department of Rail to keep it from going under in Caltrans' asphalt-centric organization, but it never went anywhere. CHSRA bigwigs had their fiefdom and they didn't want anyone else telling them what to do.

  78. Peter
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 17:44
    #78

    I do not know. Am I correct in assuming (hate doing that, but sometimes necessary for purposes of discussion), that Amtrak California is operated by Amtrak and funded by the Division of Rail?

    If so, it would appear that Amtrak California is for all intents and purposes Amtrak, but just bankrolled by the state…

  79. Peter
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 18:16
    #79

    Of course, I'm not exactly the person who would be able to answer that question, and I doubt it would be that simple.

    That might be a question for Jim to answer. I doubt that I'm qualified.

  80. Morris Brown
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 18:51
    #80

    Rafael writes:


    Note that back when AB3034 was being hashed out, a state lawmaker – I forget who – proposed setting up a whole new Department of Rail to keep it from going under in Caltrans' asphalt-centric organization, but it never went anywhere.

    I believe you are referring to SB-409, a bill by Ducheny (San Diego) It is actually quite live, and being strongly opposed by, guess who?

  81. Mo;rris Brown
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 19:11
    #81

    @Rafael who writes:

    I think it's a fairly safe bet that certain members of the board, perhaps even certain individuals on the engineering staff will be asked to collect their belongings if Atherton vs. CHSRA ends up being much more than a storm in a teacup.

    For sure this is much more than a "storm in a teacup". I'm not at all sure that anyone will be more than taken on the carpet, if that. Actually that must have happened already.

    Doesn't PB have all the technical talent? Who is really controlling at this stage? It should be the board, but can they really fire PB?

    I don't think so. If they did, who would replace them?

  82. Tony D.
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 19:15
    #82

    anon 2:24,

    Respectfully, you are incorrect on your ROW/Monterey Hwy analysis. Again, I experience this corridor everyday.

    Between southbound lane #3 of Monterey Hwy and the northbound UPRR track is a good 35-40 feet. The median of Monterey is between 30-35 feet in width. If you narrowed Monterey by replacing the wide median with a concrete barrier, HSR would then be given AT LEAST 60+ feet to work with;

    The entire Monterey Hwy corridor (UPRR with Caltrain/HSR), from residential fencing to southbound lane #3, would then be almost 100 ft. in width.

  83. Clem
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 20:46
    #83

    @Tony, Google Earth is a pretty good way to measure these things. While not a precise GIS tool, my experience has shown that it is accurate to better than a foot. Measure away!

  84. Brandon in San Diego
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 20:49
    #84

    I concur with Tony about Monterey Hwy.

    Before 101 was widened, I often got off the highyway to use Monterey for my southbound trips out of the Bay Area.

  85. Brandon in San Diego
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 21:05
    #85

    Actually, between Morgan Hill and San Jose, Monterey Highway and the RR tracks are quite close; fewer than 20 feet.

    It's clser to the norm rather than the exception.

  86. flowmotion
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 22:32
    #86

    @ Tony D

    I think there might be some confusion between the US-101 freeway and the old surface road which is still named Monterey Highway.

    The freeway seems to have a very generous ROW, but the street which runs through central Morgan Hill and Gilroy does not.

  87. jim
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 23:21
    #87

    Amtrak California is Amtrak. NRPC ( national rail passenger corporation.)
    all the employees are amtrak employees. the management is amtrak management.

    However, this is one of several state partnerships.

    The state pays for certain aspects. for instance the state has purchased a lot of the rolling stock. the "california cars" that we are all familiar with.

    The state is also the entity who put the amtrak thruway bus system in place (
    feeder buses to serve more californians where train can't or don't yet run)

    Capital Corridor has extra layers of management that surfliner and san joaquins don't have.

    Surfliners (formerly san diegans) and san joaquins, were amtrak routes prior to caltrans involvement.

    capitol corridor involves amtrak, ccjpa, up, bart, and caltrans.

    amtrak california's on board food services are a caltrans thing.

    Its sounds messy and complicated but somehow it works – in fact as we know, it works more successfully than any other routes in the country.

    It is exactly this existing successful relationship between amtrak, caltrans, union pacific and bnsf, that leads me to believe that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than any of us know.

    It also leads me to believe that ultimately it makes the most sense for amtrak california, with its existing presence, infrastructure, labor, and knowledge, national res system, and experienced nationwide labor pool ( including the nec electrified and current high speed division) that makes amtrak the obvious choice to operate ca hsr. fo course Im biased, but really, think about it.

    further, while UP is known for being a thorn in everyone's side, they also happen to be very cooperative when it suits them. They have bagged a lot of row/track improvement in cali, thanks to the amtrak and caltrans funding.

    Bnsf, on the other hand is know for being much more receptive and cooperative especailly when it comes to dispatching trains. Maybe they are just more organized than UP. I don't know, but bnsf gets trains through on schedule. and not just within california but on the national routes as well.

    beyond that I don't know anything. we will all know what is going to happen long after its been decided. when they are ready to make it public.

    Its no different than the rest of corporate america. They make the decisions and when they are ready they tell us the price and direct us to the check out line.

  88. jim
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 23:23
    #88

    side note – when capitol corridor started, it was managed by caltrans and caltrans nearly ran it into the ground to certain death. thats what I heard. then ccjpa was formed with an experienced railroad management team and they made it a success.

    only railroad people should run railroads.

  89. Anonymous
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 23:37
    #89

    The "berm" was just a scam that the CHSRA came up with to hoodwink the Peninsula. I guess they thought it wouldn't look so ghetto as a BART style elevated. But nobody's buying it except Bechtel.

    Same holds true for a tunnel for the hsr only. Fuggedaboutit.

    If Gavin wants hsr to SF he had better start leaning on Kopp & co. to reconsider 101. He won't be winning any votes by demanding an elevated thru PA, etc.

  90. QV
    Sep 1st, 2009 at 00:26
    #90

    @ Anon 12:37

    If you had read Robert's and Clem's blogs in any depth you would know that elevated structures are neither planned nor necessary for Palo Alto, and that 101 is not a viable alignment option. I have been following this issue closely and I have not found any evidence that Gavin Newsom is "demanding" an elevated line through Palo Alto. Please do not post comments without appropriate research.

  91. Rafael
    Sep 1st, 2009 at 06:17
    #91

    @ jim, Peter -

    thx for clarifying that Amtrak California is Amtrak as far as the eminent domain against railroads goes.

    However, precisely because Amtrak depends on co-operation from freight rail operators for most of its routes, it will be extremely reluctant to exercise its legal power. It's really just intended to remind freight rail operators that they can't shut out FRA-compliant standard speed passenger rail because it's inconvenient for them or, to try and jack up trackage fees.

    High speed rail lines that need dedicated right of way are a different kettle of fish.

    @ Tony D. -

    your point on the Monterey Hwy median is well taken. I hadn't considered the possibility of moving a couple of southbound lanes to make room for HSR. It wouldn't be cheap to do, though.

  92. jim
    Sep 1st, 2009 at 08:00
    #92

    hsr could follow the row south from san jose to 85 then transition at the 82/85/101 interchange to the 101 row south to gilroy.

  93. lyqwyd
    Sep 1st, 2009 at 08:12
    #93

    I would love to see Amtrak run CAHSR.

    Aside from the delays caused by freight trains the experience was pleasant when I used to ride the train to work, would love to see what they can do on a dedicated ROW!

  94. Anonymous
    Sep 1st, 2009 at 10:48
    #94

    Tony D.

    Should have been more clear earlier on what portion of Monterey Hwy I was talking about:

    Narrowing Monterey Hwy scenario was for the corridor between Capitol Station south to Metcalf Road.

    While there isn't much room between Monterey and UPRR in the Coyote Valley, this portion is rural and the roadway is lightly used (unless there's an accident on 101).

    South of Cochrane Rd in Morgan Hill, HSR can either continue along the UPRR ROW (not Monterey itself) or cut over to 101 (wide median) to Gilroy.

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