Caltrain officials on Wednesday presented the results of a study that tested the feasibility of integrating high-speed rail with Caltrain on its Peninsula tracks.
While stressing the preliminary nature of the study results, Caltrain Modernization Program Acting Director Marian Lee said the possibility clearly exists for a "blended system" that could accommodate high-speed trains and a modernized Caltrain along a shared two-track corridor.
"The blended track system has merit," Lee said.
The study, which was conducted by LTK Engineering Services, concluded that if Caltrain were to electrify all of its operating trains, upgrade its signal system, and construct a 7- to 8-mile stretch of "passing tracks" between Hayward and San Carlos, the existing two-track right-of-way could accommodate up to four high-speed trains and six Caltrain trains per hour, Lee said.
The analysis supported a concept proposed by Peninsula lawmakers Rep. Anna Eshoo, state Sen. Joe Simitian and Assemblyman Richard Gordon, who in April called upon the California High-Speed Rail Authority to revisit its plans to build out a high-speed rail system that would run separately from Caltrain between San Francisco and San Jose.
A high-speed rail system running independently from Caltrain would be duplicative and would never earn local support, the lawmakers said in a joint statement issued two months ago.
Simitian on Wednesday welcomed the results of Caltrain's test study.
"My colleagues and I have been making the case that High Speed Rail 'done right' means a 'blended system' along the San Jose to San Francisco corridor - a system that integrates High Speed Rail with a 21st century Caltrain," Simitian said in a statement.
Lee was cautious in overplaying the results of the analysis, emphasizing that much more research would need to done before plans to construct a blended system could move forward.
"This is an ongoing study," she said. "There are a lot of assumptions we still have to think through."
Lee said the test did not consider freight train use along the corridor, the impact to cities like Belmont where passing tracks would be installed, or the need to accommodate increased train traffic by lowering crossing gates and blocking street traffic at more than 50 intersections between San Francisco and San Jose.
High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark on Wednesday said he appreciated Caltrain's study and said the HRA and its transit partners would be evaluating the results in the coming months.
"I look forward to working closely with our planning partners along the corridor to evaluate this provisional study and pursuing a regional consensus to advance this segment," van Ark said.
-- Bay City News