In response to requests from the community and the Mountain View City Council, the California High Speed Rail Authority has included Mountain View among the possible locations for a High Speed Rail stop on the Peninsula.
At a meeting in San Carlos Thursday night, the Rail Authority presented various design alternatives for running high speed trains up the Peninsula Caltrain corridor. For the first time, the Authority included a possible high speed rail stop in downtown Mountain View at the existing Caltrain, bus and light rail station. The same information will be presented at a meeting at the Sunnyvale Recreation Center at 6 p.m. on Oct. 9.
"What we're presenting here tonight is just the first cut at the alternatives in the design options for the Caltrain corridor," said Dominic Spaethling, regional manager for the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment.
After studying the various possibilities, the Rail Authority will decide whether Mountain View, Redwood City or Palo Alto will host a mid-Peninsula stop, and whether the tracks will be in a tunnel, in a ditch, at grade, above grade or some combination.
"People need to be aware that this is happening and get informed about it," said Council member Ronit Bryant, who attended the meeting. "Our comments can make a difference. It is wrong to wait until decisions have been made and say 'I didn't know anything about it, this is terrible.'"
On the corridor's stretches east of Highway 85 in Mountain View, the authority only proposes running the tracks at grade. But west of Highway 85 there are several possibilities for the Castro Street and Rengstorff Avenue rail crossings. The tracks could either continue at grade above a depressed street, under the street in a tunnel or ditch, or above the street on either a raised berm or an aerial platform. There could also be a raised berm and a slightly depressed street, similar to what has been done in San Carlos for Caltrain, Bryant said.
It appears that an aerial platform in much of Mountain View is unlikely because the existing Shoreline Boulevard and San Antonio Road overpasses would be in the way. The City Council has expressed its preference for a trench or tunnel at Castro Street. Meanwhile city staff members have recommended against a tunnel or trench at Rengstorff Avenue because Permanente Creek is just to the west. Instead city staff have been working on a design with tracks at grade and running Rengstorff underneath.
The line could transition from below ground to above grade from section to section, though engineers hope to keep the tracks as level as possible to allow trains to move at a consistent speed.
"We don't want a rollercoaster," said Timothy Cobb, project engineer.
As a next step, rail officials will compare design options using evaluative measures such as construction feasibility and neighborhood impacts which will be published in a draft Alternatives Analysis report in December. The rail authority is scheduled to select the actual track alignment in early 2011, and construction of the $40 billion segment could start in late 2012.
Some cities along the corridor received only one proposed alignment and would not have their track elevation altered. Those sections include: railroads from Bayshore to South San Francisco Caltrain stations; San Bruno; Belmont to San Carlos; and southern Sunnyvale to northern Santa Clara.
The Authority will conduct two more "Alternative Analysis" workshops: on Oct. 9, 6 p.m. at the Sunnyvale Recreation Center, 550 E. Remington Drive, Sunnyvale, and Oct. 13, 6 p.m., at the Milton Marks Conference Center, 455 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco.
Palo Alto Weekly reporter Royston Sim contributed to this report.