June 2010 CHSRA Board Meeting Open Thread

Jun 3rd, 2010 | Posted by

The agenda for the June 2010 board meeting is posted, and the live feed is here.

There will be discussions of the response to the flawed State Auditor’s report, and of two new Alignment Alternatives – San José to Merced and Fresno to Bakersfield. You can find the links to the AA reports and presentations here.

UPDATE: The press release from the Authority gives a good overview of the contents of the two new AAs:

San Jose to Merced

In its study of potential station locations, the analysis found that an elevated high-speed rail station above the existing Caltrain Diridon Station would maximize connectivity and development potential in the station area, while underground station alternatives are impractical due to poor soils, groundwater and other concerns.

In its examination of potential track alignments, the analysis recommends minimizing impacts in the Greater Gardener neighborhoods in San Jose by utilizing the SR-87/I-280 freeway corridors for the approach to the Diridon station.
The analysis recommended that engineers continue to study proposed stations in both downtown Gilroy and an alternative location east of Gilroy.

The analysis recommends that study continue of both the Monterey Highway/Union Pacific Railroad corridor and US-101 corridor options between Morgan Hill and Gilroy. The report recommended continued study of both a trench and aerial structure options through downtown Gilroy.

The analysis used a state-of-the-art optimization tool to refine potential alignments through the Pacheco Pass. The tool identified two feasible alternatives that would minimize impacts by bringing the alignment closer to SR-152. As the process moves forward, more detailed design will further refine the precise location and profile of the two options at the eastern end of the pass to the north of the San Luis Reservoir.

As the route moves into the Central Valley itself, the analysis recommends the Henry Miller Road Alternative for further study, with the connection to either the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad alignment or the Union Pacific Railroad alignment between Merced and Fresno made by following either Avenue 24 or Avenue 21.

Fresno to Bakersfield

After considering more than a dozen options in and around Fresno, the analysis recommended further study of three possible alignments, all of them elevated: one west of the Union Pacific right of way, one to the east of it, and third that combines portions of both. The three alternatives all provide for a station in downtown Fresno near Mariposa Street — the location requested by the City of Fresno.

South of Fresno in the more rural subsection of the project, the analysis recommends further study of an alignment adjacent to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad right of way, bypassing the city of Hanford on the east– with a potential high-speed rail station in Kings County east of Hanford at SR-198/43. In addition, the analysis recommends continued study of different alternatives near Corcoran, Wasco and Shafter – providing for an elevated route through each town or an at-grade bypass to the east. The analysis recommends that four alternative alignments near the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way be withdrawn from further review.

An at-grade alternative route is also being considered around the town of Allensworth to avoid impacting the Allensworth Ecological Preserve. The report recommends that 12 other local options not be included in further studies, including at-grade routes that go directly through the towns of Corcoran, Wasco and Shafter.

The analysis for Bakersfield identified two options for continued study, both of them elevated.

One, known as the blue alignment, passes through the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail yard and runs next to the city’s Amtrak station. The other, known as the red alignment, runs north of the BNSF facility and one block south of the Amtrak station.

The Fresno to Bakersfield analysis recommends four sites for continued study as potential locations of a Heavy Maintenance Facility (HMF) that would bring hundreds of jobs to the selected site:

· Fresno Works – Located in Fresno
· Kings County – Located in Hanford
· Kern Council of Governments – Located in Wasco
· Kern Council of Governments – Located in Shafter

The analysis considered proposed heavy maintenance facility sites in the cities of Angiola, Allensworth, McFarland and Bakersfield, but found that because of land size, distance from recommended alignments and/or environmental impacts, these locations should not be included in further studies.

  1. Peter
    Jun 3rd, 2010 at 10:18


    Holy shnikeys! Tamien-Diridon Refined Program Alignment has been withdrawn!!! As have the two nutty tunnel designs.

    SR-87-I-280 is being advanced.

    I. Did. Not. Expect. That.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Neither did I. I’d have expected at least the existing Caltrain tracks to be carried forward as well. Apparently not.

    Peter Reply:

    I guess they must be confident that they will be able to resolve the constructability issues with Caltrans.

    Peter Reply:

    I guess they get to keep the blaring horns at the W. Virginia St. grade crossing.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Of course the cheapest and most reasonable alternative was withdrawn.

    Because it’s incompatible with Caltrain’s “service plan”.

    As if Caltrain has any plans!

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    Wait Richard, so you are now advocating sharing three tracks between HSR, Caltrain, and UP’s coast main line from from Lick to Diridon?

    Wow, are how are you going to fit all those trains together, especially the up to 20+ freights a day that show up at randoms times and on random dates (when other UP interstate lines are shut by weather, accidents etc.)?

    Surely you would want HSR tracks to be separate from any UP traffic right? That would entail at least 4 track whether Caltrain shared with HSR (3hsr/c & 1f) or with UPRR (2hsr &2 c/f).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    2 HSR/Caltrain shared is adequate for all conceivable levels of traffic south of SJ Cahill Street.
    Speed differentials between traffic classes will be approximately zero.
    (Add a central turnback platform track at Tamien if needed; there’s space.)

    1 FRA track (a short choke point, with fast clearance time) is more than adequate for all possible future levels of traffic between Cahill Street and Tamien.

    Anybody who talks of sharing Caltrain+freight rather than Caltrain+HSR is a certified moron (and yes, that includes Caltrain’s word class unprofessional staff.)

    Peter Reply:

    Brian, don’t forget that Richard is rabidly opposed to a two-level station at Diridon. If a two-level station was not necessary, then they would be able to run HSR and Caltrain together to any platform, any track at Diridon, assuming the platform height issue has (can?) been resolved.

    He also knows better than Caltrain what Caltrain’s needs are in terms of dwell time, etc, at Diridon.

    It’s either Richard’s way, or the highway. Pun not intended but nonetheless amusing.

    Richard Mlynarik: There can be no compromise.

    And yes, I fully anticipate a vitriolic, insulting rant by Richard in response.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Peter, it’s not that Richard knows better than Caltrain what the dwells are. It’s that JR East knows better. I never understood the exact context, but my understanding is that at one scoping meeting Richard pointed out that Japanese commuter trains turn back very quickly, on two tracks. For example, the Chuo Line turns back 28 tph on two tracks at Tokyo Station. The official at the meeting said “Asians don’t value life the way we do.”

    (No, I’m not advocating 2 HSR + Caltrain tracks at Diridon. I’m advocating 4, on the theory that terminal and through-tracks should be separate. So is Richard.)

    The question to ask isn’t what Caltrain thinks it needs. Rather, the question is how large, profit-seeking railroads behave. Two-minute turnaround times are common on railroads that believe in trains spending their time earning revenue.

    Peter Reply:

    But it’s not just the dwell times that matter. It’s also the platform height issue. I know that GO-26-D is stupid, but we can’t assume that it will go away easily or even that it will go away at all.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What I said above is independent of platform height. HSR could use two tracks and Caltrain another two. Caltrain could have its tracks raised a bit to compensate, allowing step-free cross-platform transfers; it wouldn’t violate any-train-any-track any more than incompatible platform heights would by themselves.

    Add 1-2 more tracks for legacy trains if needed, and it can be done single-level, not counting BART.

    rafael Reply:

    @ Peter –

    afaik, Caltrain hasn’t even asked CPUC to waive GO 26-D yet. They simply haven’t changed their own plans sufficiently to fully reflect both the opportunities and the constraints imposed by sharing their right-of-way with CHSRA.

    rafael Reply:

    SR87/I-280 would introduce a horrible chicane. There’s no way any train could run through that at 125mph. That’s probably not a huge issue in practical terms since most trains would stop in San Jose anyhow for the ridership, but this is yet another brick in the wall for the ambition to deliver and SF-LA line haul time of 2h40m, as mandated by AB3034.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, they weren’t going to be going along the existing ROW at 125 mph, either.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Chcane? Who cares. It introduces expensive civil structures. And that is its own reward.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    What if the bend from the 280 to 87 isn’t at grade? I could imagine a sloping track that allows the train to build potential energy until the ROW straightens out, thereby allowing the train to accelerate faster than if it had been at grade the whole time?

    rafael Reply:

    Acceleration in one direction, hill climbing in the other. Trains need to make return trips.

    rafael Reply:

    Note that if they’re going to build tracks between the 280 median and SJ Diridon anyhow, they could one day continue on via the 680 median to the foot of Sunol Grade. A tunnel under the short section of the WPML that BART won’t be using plus bits of Mission Blvd and Niles Blvd would permit an intermodal with Union City BART. From there, tracks could be constructed next to BART along an unused rail right of way to an intermodal with Amtrak/BART/people mover to OAK at Oakland Coliseum. There’s also a ball park there.

    None of this would be trivial, but if the rights of way are preserved, it would permit a spur up the East Bay at an indeterminate date in the future. An underground wye in Niles would permit an additional network expansion via Altamont, though reaching an intermodal station with the planned BART extension to Livermore would require co-operation from UPRR. Also, the cities of Pleasanton and Livermore have previously come out against any HSR alignment through their downtown areas.

    Caelestor Reply:

    What are they thinking?! That sharp S curve could easily increase travel time by 1-2 minutes.
    Is it just not possible to route it along Caltrain?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Have any of you seen the LA-ANA shared track option updated??? lots of stuff with even a at grade LAUS with HSR having 6 tracks/3 platforms and Amtrak Metrolink having 8/4

    HSRforCali Reply:

    Is the update on the Authority’s website?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Yes in the board meeting section under June

  2. Robert Cruickshank
    Jun 3rd, 2010 at 10:19

    Anyone else having trouble getting the streaming video to work on a Mac?

    Nadia Reply:

    yep, my audio keeps going but I lose video

  3. Peter
    Jun 3rd, 2010 at 11:33

    With all due respect, I don’t think ANYTHING about Hanford is “heavily urbanized”.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    You can get off the Amtrak, walk to the Courthouse, ride the carousel, and get an ice cream at Superior Dairy. School kids from Bakersfield to Fresno know this routine from thier classroom rail “day trip”. ……….and for Kings County, that’s heavy urbanization!

    Peter Reply:


    James Fujita Reply:

    Just more proof that the UP/ Highway 99 route would be so much better than the alternatives. Somebody needs to kill that 800 pound, yellow-painted gorilla.

    With a Hwy. 99 route, you could place the station in the middle of Tulare, which would be much closer to the 100,000 residents of Visalia. Plus, you have the World Ag Expo (with visitors from Asia, Europe and Sacramento), the outlet mall and quite possibly a NASCAR racetrack coming soon.

    As for Hanford…. nobody ever said that it was downtown Los Angeles, but it’s not Mayberry, either. A station there would still attract riders from Visalia, Tulare, Lemoore (military), etc.

    rafael Reply:

    UPRR’s market cap is currently around $37 billion. For 45, you could probably push through a hostile takeover, keep the ROWs you want and set up trackage rights agreement on active freight lines that use them. Then, sell the remainder back to private investors.

    The trouble is the $45 billion is way more than the state of California has or could borrow. Other than that, it would take congressional action to force UPRR to share any of its ROW against its will.

    James Fujita Reply:

    there’s no reason why we should be kowtowing to UP’s every whim. we already let too many corporations get away with murder as it is. that’s what this amounts to, the attempted murder of the California high speed rail project.

    if it requires congressional action, then we ought to push congress to act because building around UP makes no sense!

    rafael Reply:

    Good luck getting that approved by the US Senate. Freight railroads contribute massively toward interstate commerce, they are lifelines for states in the vast interior of the country. They also make generous campaign contributions and, the drill-baby-drill-never-mind-the-spill crowd would like nothing better than to nip Pres. Obama’s HSR ambitions in the bud on ideological grounds.

    Samsonian Reply:

    Do we know if CHSRA has really made an effort this front?

    At the very least, it seems like they should be telling all of California’s Congressional delegation, and anyone else who will listen, about the UPRR problem.

    If all these powerful people say they want HSR, they should make an effort to at least remove barriers to making it happen.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Again, you don’t need legislation, you just need cooperation from Amtrak and the STB.

    But anyway, the fact is that Congress is pretty hostile to the Class Is this year — there are bills for rate regulation, which would *actually* be bad for them. They would trade pretty much damn near anything away to avoid rate regulation. There’s plenty of Congressional leverage…..

    Samsonian Reply:

    I agree with your assessment.

    If a station in Hanford via the BNSF corridor isn’t happening because they don’t want it, and/or don’t want to change their development, then that corridor is a bust. We shouldn’t pursue a beetfield station to the east of Hanford.

    The UPRR/CA-99 corridor is probably the best one, with a station in Tulare. It should be noted that there is a short line railroad (SJVR?) running through these communities. It could be leveraged to provide a regional rail service connecting these communities and feeding the HSR station.

    CHSRA made a big mistake in not carrying forward the UPRR/CA-99 alignments. Hell, it’s hardly the only this meeting. They recommended a freeway aerial alignment to SJ instead of using the CalTrain ROW. I’m sure it won’t be the last ones either.

  4. Peter
    Jun 3rd, 2010 at 12:21

    This guy wearing the orange vest is entertaining.

  5. Reality Check
    Jun 3rd, 2010 at 12:57

    Wow. Dropping the logical route along the existing ROW between Diridon and Tamien through SJ Gardener in exchange for the all-new highway-following S curve appears to validate a cost-is-no-object bow-to-the-NIMBYs approach that guarantees major project-threatening cost blowouts. It will be interesting to see how long even die-hard HSRA apologists (not to be confused with die-hard HSR supporters) can keep defending such lunacy.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    It avoids major conflict with neighbors and given there were no speakers in opposition, it appears to solidify the support of San Jose’s political establishment. This is compromise solution that will be somewhat more expensive but not nearly as expensive as a tunnel. Such a compromise was only possible because of the existence of the already elevated 87 and 280 freeways that it will hug. Unlike the Peninsula, where compromise is much more difficult to achieve because HSR is likely to have to be configured either as elevated or in a tunnel in the contentious areas. This development can only help the project in the face of other smaller cities challenging the project on the Peninsula.

    Also by eliminating the tunnel options, land slated for TOD is preserved. Maybe some of this TOD could help pay some of the extra cost through tax increment, etc.

    Call me an apologist if you want, but as a die-hard supporter of HSR, I believe on balance, this helps the project move forward by avoiding another huge conflict.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Well, it’s still cheaper than the alternative, which is doing nothing. I wonder if San Jose is planning to contribute anything to the higher cost of this alignment.

    rafael Reply:

    It wasn’t the city that nixed the route via Gardner, it was grass roots opposition from residents near the line. The city would pay only if CHSRA could make a credible threat to cut San Jose out of the starter line by switching to Altamont with no spur south to SJ Diridon. BART would provide connecting transit, e.g. via an intermodal at Union City. This would be playing hardball, but AB3034 is worded to permit just that scenario.

    Unfortunately, CHSRA has boxed itself into a corner and is in no position to make such a threat so it’ll get stuck with 100% of the bills for fighting its way through south San Jose.

    Peter Reply:

    If there was no other cost-effective option, I doubt that the grass-roots opposition would have made a difference.

    rafael Reply:

    Perhaps. Unfortunately, though, the state is weak and individual counties, cities and even districts within cities are strong because CEQA is biased toward protecting the status quo at virtually any cost.

  6. Richard Mlynarik
    Jun 3rd, 2010 at 14:40

    It wasn’t the city … it was grass roots opposition from residents …

    Uh huh. Brer Rabbit sure hates being thrown into that briar patch.

    And those stalwart grass roots residents (note: NOT “NIMBYs”, NOT “obstructionists”, NOT “HSR denialiasts”, not “BANANAs”, oh no, not at all) with no interest at all in PB’s bottom line and whose most legitimate community concerns simply cannot be dismissed or sidelined in any way: why, they pop up Fremont, Dublin and San Jose in turn as if by some sort of magic cue!

  7. Bay Area Resident
    Jun 3rd, 2010 at 19:32

    Way to go GARDNER. If there was anything that offended people about this cockamamey train, it was the arrogance that put a massive traffic corridor through neighborhoods, and the most offensive of those neighborhoods was Gardner, a neighborhood ALREADY damaged by 2 freeways and on a city redevelopment plan, where residents seem to really care about what happens there. I have driven through it, the old section of town with 100 yr old victorians.

    Having said this, my belief is it was the CITY of SAN JOSE who nixed the Caltrain route on this, because they see this ridiculous train as some kind of an welcome mat into their city, and they don’t want the entrance to San Jose to be a blighted slum, which is what will happen to any residential neighborhood that is unfortunate enough to be destroyed by this boondoggle.

    Joey Reply:

    Yeano. Impacts to the Gardner neighborhood would not be huge. The area is already nearly completely grade-separated; there is only one crossing and the tracks would be at grade for most of the route (they would have to rise a little as they approach Diridon station of course), and property takes would be minimal if there even were any. These electric trains would be traveling at about 60MPH, meaning very little noise compared to what is there already.

    BTW kill the “blighted slum” hyperbole. That doesn’t even happen in places which are destroyed by wide freeways.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Except the South Bronx. But that was a huge freeway designed for maximum community impact, not a train.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Whats all the bitching about??? no train thru that 5 star hood of yours…boondoggle is a naysayer nimby term used to bitch..So now you can shut up with that BS…

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I hate to use such strong language as this, but it has to be done: your framing of the use of Caltrain tracks in the Gardner neighborhood is a complete lie.

    The “massive traffic corridor” is already there. HSR would have required only minor expansions of the ROW to accommodate its trains.

    You cannot expect people to take your claims seriously when they bear so little resemblance to reality as yours.

  8. Bay Area Resident
    Jun 4th, 2010 at 07:01

    I don’t live there, neither do I live in Menlo Park. But I am a kindred spirit to those people, who were duped into voting for a very shady proposition that would have never passed had it been worded in a straightforward fashion.

    I also think the SF->SJ stretch of this will NEVER be built. They will put it on the back burner to “study it” or some such, and forget about it. Thats the other reason why they had to avoid Gardner, because without ruining the peninsula towns, ruining Gardner would have been a Ceqa battle.

    wu ming Reply:


    thank you.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Nobody was duped!! HSR has been talked about for over a decade and people voted YES because it a wanted project no matter what the visionless and Nimbys say….dont live there?? you were always making noise about it ..and it WILL be built..you and the nimbys will see soon enough!!!

    Peter Reply:

    I’m sorry, but exercising willful ignorance, apathy, and lack of interest in civic and ballot measures DOES NOT equal being “duped”. All the information regarding the project’s scope was on the table and publicly available prior to the election. Pacheco had already been chosen as the Program Alignment. The preferred program alignment between Diridon and Tamien was through Gardner. If people had BOTHERED to care before the election, if they had bothered to look at the ballot measure, if they had bothered to check out the Authority’s website, they would have known.

    If I don’t know what a measure does or candidate is for, I either inform myself or don’t vote on it at all. Anything less is pure negligence by a voter.

    Bay Area Resident Reply:

    Right, care to document where in this page the “preferred alignment” of the Caltrain tracks was specified in ANY WAY?

    In fact, the Pacheco route isn’t even documented in any way…..
    If the authority finds that there would be no negative impact on the construction of Phase I of the project, bond funds may be used on any of the following corridors:

    * Sacramento to Stockton to Fresno
    * San Francisco Transbay Terminal to San Jose to Fresno
    * Oakland to San Jose

    What a sham- the text is worded as a STUDY… voters were duped. And please, don’t embarrass yourselves into stating that reading SMART VOTER is not enough education for a bond measure.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Do you have any facts or study’s that support your “voters were duped” BS!? Of course you don’t. Why don’t you do us all a favor: Throw on some Lawrence Welk and get back on your rocker! California can move forward and into the future without you!

    Peter Reply:

    Well, DUH, of course it was worded as a study. They were and still are in the study phase. But people weren’t voting to fund a study, they were voting to fund the construction of a real railroad. What do you think they were thinking, that they would vote for it and nothing would ever come of it? Why were they asked to vote to authorize nearly $10 BILLION in bonds?

    Elections have consequences. Studies come to results.

    The world doesn’t stop turning.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Thats right its willow glenn…..

  9. dental hygienist
    Jun 7th, 2010 at 22:15

    My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

Comments are closed.