How Will HSR Get to Downtown San Diego?
The CHSRA board meeting in San Diego yesterday offered an opportunity to take another look at the debate over how to bring the HSR trains from the I-15 corridor to downtown San Diego. With residents near Rose Canyon complaining about using the LOSSAN corridor than runs through the canyon for HSR, the CHSRA has proposed some other solutions for getting the trains back to the coast. Predictably, these solutions are causing some of the same folks who criticized the Rose Canyon alignment to criticize the alternatives as well.
The CHSRA board was shown yesterday an updated presentation and route maps. The presentation acknowledged the considerable opposition to a Rose Canyon alignment, and included the following options for dealing with it:
Some of these proposed alignments, including SR-56, SR-163, and I-8, were suggested by Californians For High Speed Rail in our scoping letter submitted in November. These options seem sensible to study given the need to bring the trains downtown – remember that the trains should go where the riders are – but apparently some of the critics of the Rose Canyon alignment are also criticizing some of the alternatives:
After zipping south along Interstate 15, San Diego County’s planned high-speed rail line could zag west along Highway 56, state rail authorities said this week.
That’s something few people on the east-west corridor know about, San Diego City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said Thursday. The councilwoman said she didn’t realize it either, until recently.
Highway 56 connects Rancho Penasquitos, Del Mar Mesa, Carmel Valley and other communities to Interstate 5, along sloping terrain dotted with oak trees and upscale subdivisions.
“The thousands of people who live on this corridor need to know if their backyard is going to be considered for a train,” Lightner said Thursday, speaking in front of the California High Speed Rail Authority’s board of directors in downtown San Diego. Lightner’s District 1 includes the 56 corridor….
Lightner said she prefers the I-15 route to Qualcomm, saying it’s the straightest, cheapest option.
Well, now they know. The Authority will indeed be holding public meetings in that community to propose a 56 corridor route, as they will with a 163 route, as they will with an I-8 route.
Unfortunately, Lightner falls into the “straight is best” trap. HSR has to go where the people are. It’s actually more expensive to build it on a straight line, because you’ll get fewer riders and therefore will require more public funding to build. This Tolmach argument that bypassing huge pockets of riders would somehow help HSR is madness, and strikes me as being designed to set HSR up to fail.
Not all San Diego officials were making critical comments. Mayor Jerry Sanders expressed his support for the project:
“We stand firmly behind high-speed rail and will do all that we can to bring it to San Diego,” he said. “It will fuel our economy, help the environment and improve our quality of life.”
Of course, for that to happen, the issue of how HSR gets downtown has to be resolved. The above image indicates the primary options. All of them need to be considered openly and fairly – Lightner’s outright NIMBYism shouldn’t be the determining factor. What are the impacts on costs? On ridership? On travel times?
In assessing this, CHSRA and the community should keep an open mind. They should also not place undue weight on a Qualcomm Stadium station, which strikes me as being pretty much unnecessary. I’ve not been convinced that a University City stop is all that necessary either. What IS necessary is bringing HSR trains downtown, where there is a lot of urban density and destinations that passengers would want to go.