High-Speed Rail Hosts Community Meeting in Burlingame

High-speed rail, Burlingame, Caltrain, Morgan Hill, San Jose, Northern California, Redwood City, Transbay Terminal, San Francisco, Peninsula, Millbrae

High-speed rail, Burlingame, Caltrain, Morgan Hill, San Jose, Northern California, Redwood City, Transbay Terminal, San Francisco, Peninsula, Millbrae
By Robert Carlsen

The ongoing struggle to get Peninsula residents onboard for a “bundled” track system shared by Caltrain and California High-Speed Rail took on familiar pros and cons during the fourth community meeting in Northern California to discuss the ambitious HSR project in the region.

[contextly_sidebar id=”gaMKGaf3UY3qADr32a8PM2BX1SUSYExC”]The Burlingame meeting at the city’s Recreation Center on Oct. 7, which followed similar events in San Francisco, Morgan Hill and San Jose in the past month, was headed by Ben Tripousis, Northern California regional director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Tripousis gave a brief overview of the Peninsula project, which will use the 51 miles of Caltrain tracks from San Francisco to San Jose. The bundled approach, he said, would not only reduce costs and increase ridership, but would improve safety with upgraded operating systems and quad gates, fencing and grade separations (tunnels and bridges).

Tripousis said that the Advanced Signaling System (also known as Positive Train Control) that HSR will use along the Peninsula reduces the probability of collisions between trains and will also minimize traffic access problems.
HSR stations along the Peninsula are being studied and currently include the new San Francisco Transbay Terminal, Millbrae/SFO, a possible mid-Peninsula stop near or in Redwood City and San Jose/Diridon.

Residents lined up post-presentation for a Q&A session and expressed concerns mainly about safety. While some residents indicated that there would be 20 trains per hour operating on the Peninsula tracks, Tripousis said it was more like 10 (six Caltrain trains and four high-speed rail trains), though the final numbers have yet to be decided. Residents were also concerned about the use of fencing and quad gates, which they said would further divide east and west sections of Peninsula cities.

Residents also reminded Tripousis about safety issues on the rail crossings; in fact, two Caltrain accidents occurred Oct. 6 and 7 in Burlingame, during the same week as the meeting, resulting in one death.

Caltrain and HSR are using $705 million in state funds to electrify the Peninsula Rail Corridor, allowing for the replacement of diesel trains and eventually connecting Caltrain with high-speed rail. The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board said that with the electrification of the line, 176,000 metric tons of CO2 greenhouse gases would be reduced as would noise. Completion of the project is expected by 2020.

Tripousis said a final environmental review for the San Francisco-San Jose and San Jose-Gilroy segments is scheduled to be completed in 2017.

The project is initially scheduled to run 520 miles from the $4.2 billion Transbay Transit Center currently under construction in San Francisco to Los Angeles. The system will eventually also connect Sacramento and San Diego, adding 300 more miles and totaling 24 stations. Trains will travel more than 200 miles per hour in the less-populated regions (primarily the Central Valley and northern Los Angeles County). A 2029 completion is currently estimated.

Meanwhile, after a three-year delay, work recently began on the Madera-Fresno phase that includes a viaduct (elevated bridge) above the Fresno River, Highway 145 and Raymond Road just east of Madera, according to the Fresno Bee. Work is also continuing on right-of-way issues, building demolition and utility relocation along the rail route.

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