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Transit Officials Consider Possibility of Integrating High-Speed Rail, Caltrain Tracks

A recent study shows Caltrain's existing two-track right-of-way could accommodate up to four high-speed trains and six Caltrain trains per hour.

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

jim sullivan August 18, 2011 at 02:59 PM
As part of the blended system, how about a bicycle-pedestrian paved trail that parallels the entire length of the Caltrain serviced rails? Currently the disconnected SF Bay trail,hugely auto traffic'd el camino real, or hilly hwy 35 are the main S-N corridors for human powered ranging.... Example of how it could be included exists in Palo Alto, from Churchill st-University ave.
Ben Toy August 18, 2011 at 05:09 PM
Additionally...'Done Right'...also means to NOT destroy the Peninsula. They will only get one chance at it and ruination FOREVER if they don't get it right. I do NOT want an aerial alignment, as CHSR has proposed, which has a mean average height of around 54 FEET above the mean surface or roadway. Berlin Wall anyone? There is historical information of an aerial alignment and it is the San Francisco. Well documented in many, many web pages/images/etc and here are just a few http://www.wayfaring.com/waypts/show/26748 http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/parenting/detail?entry_id=63925 http://www.streetfilms.org/lessons-from-san-francisco/ This has images of before, during and after tearing down that aerial freeway system. A potential for the Peninsula Caltrain's electrification plans also (the last time I looked) is an aerial alignment and am afraid no difference from CHSR's plans. CHSR has proven (documented in most all news media) to NOT listen to the public. A good example of this is with the Central Valley and their complaints, which is almost EXACTLY the same issues the Peninsula residents brought up years ago. Ditto CHSR's steam roller methods (not listening or addressing the public's concerns). I am a fan of HSR and think it is the next generation transportation. Just like the canal system, rail roads, highway system, air line system and now HSR....but....it needs to be done right, or not at all...at this time.
Ben Toy August 18, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Jim, a dream of mine...is that if 'done right', either/or both CHSR and Caltrain would be tunneled or depressed/covered the whole length of the Peninsula. That then would have the existing rail line covered or removed to have a green belt from San Francisco to San Jose. Tree lined on both sides and grass/paths/etc for pedestrians and bicyclists. The current train stations would then become rest stops and also serve the trains 'down there' and be air shafts. I'd love to take the neighborhood kids and ride down to San Jose or as far as we wished to. Then with San Mateo's pedestrian & bicycle plans to have a East/West artery along the 16th ave canal...we would have several East/West arteries connecting the Bay Trail. Ditto this for the other cities along the Peninsula and what a 'more' wonderful place the Peninsula would become !
Ben Toy August 18, 2011 at 05:24 PM
Attended last nites presentation by Caltrain/PCJB and Peninsula Freight Rail Users Group. Liked the simulation developed by LTK Engineering. Asked if this simulation has any 'margin of error'. Meaning that it has some fudge factor and that most folks take these things as an 'absolute'. Since decisions are going to be made based on these simulations, asked that they find out what the margin of error is and to run a simulation of a known and controlled EXISTING run. That will tell whether the simulation is spot on or has some margin of error. That then would provide a better vision of the simulations of a train running at 110MPH or whatever speed it will run at (79MPH and 110MPH were mentioned) Tunneling or trench/covered would then remove the need for those nasty horns the freight trains blow during the night.
Win Reis August 23, 2011 at 03:59 PM
How about instead we follow the Legislative Analyst's recommendation and spend the $7M it takes to shut down this ridiculous boondoggle that we can't afford. Bonds were passed based on lies and deliberate misinformation as to both the costs and revenue expectations. The $30B cost estimate is now more than doubled and if you believe those numbers I have a bridge to sell you too. We also now know that the ridership (revenue) expectations were DELIBERATELY overinflated to make the numbers look plausible. How much less damage would Sacramento be doing to public education if they weren't spending money on this ridiculous project?

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