Four train tracks may still be ahead for MV


Part of the growing popularity of a "blended system" for high-speed rail and Caltrain is that Palo Alto and other cities may be spared the addition to two tracks to their Caltrain right of way. Other cities, but not Mountain View. Adding two more train tracks is still on the table for Mountain View, according to a recent Caltrain analysis.

In an "operations analysis" for the blended system that allows Caltrain and high-speed rail to share two tracks along most of the Peninsula, Caltrain has created five scenarios to allow high speed trains to pass slower local trains along the Caltrain corridor, increasing capacity.

One scenario places four tracks from Sunnyvale's Lawrence station to Mountain View's San Antonio station. The scenario adds a new track on each side of the existing tracks to allow high-speed trains to blow past local trains that have pulled over for a stop on the new tracks.

Four tracks through downtown Mountain View could significantly change Castro Street and the downtown train station where Public Works officials say there are clearance issues involving the light rail tracks and the 1887 replica train depot. And city officials have not been able to find an acceptable solution for a grade-separated crossing at Castro Street that may be necessary with more trains running during peak hours.

Residents will have a chance to discuss such issues on Tuesday evening, March 13, when state Sen. Joe Simitian hosts a hearing on high-speed rail at Mountain View's Center for Performing Arts at 7 p.m.

Simitian proposed the blended system along with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and state Assemblyman Rich Gordon.

The passing track option through Mountain View makes sense because "it stays substantially within the Caltrain right of way," said Caltrain spokesperson Seamus Murphy. "'Substantially' was the word used by Simitian, Eshoo and Gordon when they proposed the blended system. We don't want to go outside the Caltrain right of way at all if we don't have to."

Passing tracks would only be necessary if running more than two high-speed trains in each direction per hour and more than six Caltrain trains per hour. With a passing track, four high speed trains could run every hour, for a total of 10 in each direction every hour.

"When you increase the number of trains every hour there will be more potential for impacts to traffic and safety," Murphy said. So far results show that with "six Caltrain trains and up to four high speed trains every hour in each direction, "we can feasibly operate that level of service in a safe way," Murphy said.

Other options for passing tracks would put an additional two tracks through segments with at least three stations somewhere on the Caltrain right of away. Options include a 10-mile segment between Bayshore and Millbrae stations, a 9-mile segment between Hayward Park and Redwood City stations and a 6-mile segment between Hayward Park and San Carlos stations. A fifth option involves adding only one passing track, which would be shared by high-speed trains going in both directions. Its location has yet to be proposed.

Murphy said Caltrain hopes to spur the electrification of Caltrain, which would allow the capacity of the line to increase to 70,000 riders a day. It is now at 45,000 after 17 consecutive months of growth, up from 40,000 riders a day in 2010.

Caltrain doesn't have decision-making power over the final design, but will make a recommendation to the California High Speed Rail Authority. All five passing track options are still on the table, Murphy said.

Mayor Mike Kasperzak said he didn't think that it was "an issue four tracks or two tracks," in Mountain View, because the bigger impact would come from adding more trains. If 10 trains ran each hour in both directions, that would mean one every three minutes, making the Castro Street crossing "not useable," Kasperzak said.

The City Council has discussed putting the tracks in a trench, the cost of which is "probably not practical," Kasperzak said. Its not a favorite idea to put Castro Street under the tracks, which would mean lowering Castro Street starting at Villa Street, changing the character of the city's historic 100 block. Raising the tracks has some support from residents who want a bike path underneath, but council members haven't supported the idea because it would chance the city's landscape so much.

"I personally don't think it's workable to have Castro go under or over the tracks," Kasperzak said.

Murphy said grade-separated crossings were not required until trains go faster than 110 miles per hour, which is the speed Caltrain is studying for high-speed rail. Caltrain trains now run at 79 miles per hour.

"Do you just close Castro Street?" Kasperzak said. "There are not a lot of good choices. They are all difficult."


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Posted by Martin
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Faster stopping electric trains, PTS (Positive Train Control), and new four-quadrant gate systems, will bring gate down-times equal to your basic city stop light. Think about it, we are not putting over-under crossings, at each street intersection.

Let's let Caltrain finish their traffic studies, and then review the results. My bet, is that crossing times will become a non-issue.

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Posted by margaret
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm

It doesn't make sense to me to tear up Mountain View and the rest of the peninsula towns so that we can FIND OUT if people prefer to take trains to Los Angeles. In my estimation people will not use the HSR much, and all the towns will have spent tons of money, and we will have ripped up Castro street and made an even bigger divide between the 'weathly' side of Mountain VIew and the rest of Mountain View.

I we really love the train to LA idea so much, then build it from San Jose down, and let people drive to San Jose or take public transportation (CalTrain) to get there. The rest of this is a big waste and destructive. I bet you anything that if we had a re-vote today, this would absolutely fail.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Ok, enough about the sacred cow of Castro Street and Old Mountain View. How about showing us some images of how it will effect the rest of Mountain View at Rengstorf and San Antonio. Or do all the stiffs living along the line there just no count for anything. The last time I looked there are no homes at Castro Street and very few business as close to line as will effect the homes. But, again, the only discussion we ever get is about how it will effect Castro Street. Surely the council and the Voice could turn their attention our way for once!

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Posted by Waldo
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm

HSR is still alive? I thought it was dead. If it is still alive, I like Margaret's idea (take Caltrain to San Jose to catch HSR to LA). If they still insist on HSR to SF, let it run from SJ up the middle of the Bay.

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Posted by Jeff
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Gee "Resident" you might get a clue.

There are no track crossings between Castro and Rengstorff. Then none between Rengstorff and San Antonio. So there is no potential effect on homes (between the crossings) except for the passing of the trains. That may be a concern, of course. Other than that, the article makes a point that the planners are working to stay within the existing CalTrain right of way.

Castro is an attractive destination and it is good for all residents to keep it so. In addition to being a nice amenity, it brings in a lot of money (jobs, taxes). A potential major rebuild of the crossing intersection in question is properly a priority for the council.

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Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Running this thing up the peninsula is like stuffing 10 pounds of you know what into a 5 pound bag.

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Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm

It's long past time for all at-grade railroad crossings in Mountain View to be changed to over or under crossings--with or without HSR.

Leaving aside the time it takes to wait for trains to pass, at-grade railroad crossings are simply not safe enough.

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Posted by JOHN
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 8, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Someone should tell Joe that the train is dead and is a waste of time except payola for connected polititians. but he already knows as he transitions his wasted public career to Santa Clara County.

It is amusing to watch the 'lets pretend to build a high speed train"

There is no money

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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 9:22 pm

I do not think the author or the readers understand what is going on here. The amount of money to actually build the entire system is staggering and not politically feasible to obtain from the feds, not in the next few decades at least. What is now happening is not an attempt to build high speed rail or prepare for high speed rail. This is a last ditch attempt to spend the state bond money in an attempt to electrify Caltrain by calling it a prelude to high speed rail and hoping that those making a legal ruling on this are actually political hacks who will declare that to be so. Caltrains own plans do not call for the ability to run the high speed trains up the Peninsula. Caltrain has created a plan that in theory has the ability to run one single high speed train each hour. In theory. That is only there so that they can say the are doing it for high speed rail so they are eligible for funds that the authority will give to them as nothing more than a conduit for federal funds. A conduit that in itself is a conduit to pay high priced consultants to put together lavish plans that will never come to fruition. Caltrain has no actual plans to run this single high speed train and high speed authority fake plans are for many times more trains than that. This works only because the Pacheco Pass route is never going to be built. High Speed Authority cannot say this out loud lest San Jose support is lost. Do not be lulled into thinking this has anything to do with high speed rail or getting ready for high speed rail. This is an attempt by Caltrain to take voter approved funds that were meant for high speed trains and instead use these billions of dollars to electrify their railway. As a builder of trains worldwide including some electrified lines, I am supportive of Caltrain electrifying. This would be a positive move for the railroad and for the Peninsula. No one however should be fooled as to what is really going on here. This is a desperate feeding frenzy drooling at the billion dollar trough on the other side of the fence, Caltrain hoping someone else does not make it to the trough first, or they take away the trough altogether before anyone can eat.

Jay Tulock, Vacaville

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Posted by Noah
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 8, 2012 at 10:04 pm

A high speed self-driving car lane or two built alongside US-5 would be a lot cheaper and lot more useful. Self driving cars could chain together following within inches, creating a virtual train, with low wind resistance, and high fuel efficiency. Upon arrival, a traveler has their own car with them, and can easily get to whatever their final destination is.

Self driving cars don't crash from inattentiveness, don't slow down to look at wrecks on the side of the road, don't cause many of the issues that slow down regular highways. By the time a high speed rail system could be build, self driving cars will be a common reality, and hardly anyone would use the rail.

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Posted by Curious Observer
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 8, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Curious Observer is a registered user.

With the number of fatalities on the tracks I just don't see how anyone can expect to run 10 trains an hour in each direction. Who ever is planning that is just out of touch with the stretch of tracks between SJ and SF.

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Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 9, 2012 at 9:42 am

We need to kill this overpriced wasteful project. Find, circulate and sign the ballet measure to put this project to a vote, now that the lies are exposed it will be defeated in an election. Search for the No Train Please Act website where you will read how to download an official signature form.

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Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 9, 2012 at 11:02 am

Just upgrade already! With gas reaching $5 a gallon the trains are packed and getting more crowded by the day. There should be plenty of rail options for not only the peninsula, but the entire state. That's what the people voted for. Stop using the thing as a political football and let's move into the 21st century for crying out loud!

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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 9, 2012 at 11:58 am

I agree with Curious Observer - even with all the fancy safety work they've done at the Castro Street intersection, I still see far too many risks being taken by pedestrians and drivers in a hurry. Plus the left-turn from Moffett to Central Expwy is already a potential 10-minute wait during peak times. I'd be all for the trench option, even though I know it's a lot of $$. This would also help with the 2030 plan to unite Moffett and Castro into more of a cohesive whole.

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Posted by Martin Luht
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 9, 2012 at 6:23 pm

I'm never voting for Jerry Brown's tax increase if he keeps pushing
this environmentally destructive waste of money. HSR needs to be
killed off ASAP.

I just don't understand why our City Council doesn't fight for us like
the Palo Alto Council fights for their residents.

High Speed Rail is a boondoggle!!

Like this comment
Posted by thetruth
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Jay turlock is a troll that posts AntiHSR nonsense all over the internet

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Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2012 at 10:22 am

Dont worry- The Mtn View council will roll over and do what they're told. Make downtown Mtn View into a railyard? Sure, why not. Google wants to build a new retail hub by their HQ anyway, so the council will roll over and let Castro street die.

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Posted by Christopher Parkinson
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Christopher Parkinson is a registered user.

Eric You are right. The Mayor has gone on record to suggest we block off Castro at the rail intersection. No more cars. That according to Councilman Siegel will not be so good for the downtown merchants as downtown is a destination.

Martin Luht, Your right it is being shoved down our throats by democrats who are out of touch and out of control. The Obama admin needs HSR in California because we are the only state that is willing to do it. His legacy relies on this and it will be another Solyndra.

Kathy, your right the trench is a great option. The Mayor says CalTrain has no money, this city has no money, and the CAHSRA has no money. It will not happen, if anything we are getting worst case 4 tracks at street level just as the planners at the CAHSRA wanted all along.

Bruno, Sorry but sad to say you are wrong. What we need is a better mass transit option and that happens to be BART. They have and excellent safety record, and they have a record of paying back their bonds.

Rodger, It will take a ballot referendum at this point to kill it.

Curios Observer, Your right CalTrain is a killing machine because they spend zero dollars to mitigate. They should have been sued 100 times over for failure to adequately protect citizens.

Jay Tulock, See my comments on a Prop 1A referendum.

John, Don't be deluded that there is no money. Far from the truth, they are seeking to use Gas Tax dollars to do this. There is plenty of money in the two bookends.

Doug Pearson, Your right if we had the money. If Mountain View would build out the grade separation at Castro and Rengstorff the system would be forced to use whatever we would build. We should build that today. Redwood City did it and so did San Carlos. What are we waiting for?

Martin, That's right the frequency and four tracks sounds like a nightmare where up to 8 minutes is a potential frequency and with no reliable way to link the traffic lights, people will sit and sit and get more frustrated then they are today.

If everyone likes what I propose, put me on the ballot in July for a council seat. The incumbents are scary that they will just roll over anything ABAG or the MTC or CalTrain, or the CAHSRA tells them.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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