Rail Authority drops tunnel, viaduct options

High speed train will run in open trench or at grade level in Mountain View

If high speed trains are to run through Mountain View it will be either at-grade or in a trench, the California High Speed Rail Authority reported last week.

At a CHSRA board meeting in San Francisco Friday, the agency dropped the tunnel and cut-and-cover alternatives along much of the Midpeninsula despite heavy lobbying on their behalf by Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton and other Midpeninsula cities.

While a tunnel was never really on the table for Mountain View, the city had been considering a partially covered trench to provide a walking path between the downtown area and Rengstroff Park. It appears that the city would be on the hook for paying for that partial trench covering.

Mountain View was the only Peninsula city to have the aerial viaduct was dropped from the option list. The aerial viaduct option was widely unpopular in recent public hearings on high speed rail in Mountain View.

"I could not imagine how an aerial structure could possibly be fit into Mountain View without having a huge impact on us," said Mountain View mayor Ronit Bryant, who attended the board meeting.

In Mountain View, a deep tunnel option has not been a studied alternative, although a partially covered trench has been supported by the City Council. The city had recently asked the CHSRA to study a deep tunnel in Mountain Vie was well, which is now unlikely.

A new staff report lists just two design options for the Peninsula segment: one relies on at-grade and aerial structures and another includes tunnels at several portions of the segment. Tunneling is still an option for a stretch in San Francisco, in the Burlingame/Millbrae area and in Santa Clara.

In the first option, option A, Mountain View would have tracks run entirely at grade, presumably with Castro Street and Rengstorff running underneath. Option B is much the same, except an open trench runs from Stevens Creek and under Castro Street and Rengstorff Avenue before returning to grade level.

East of Highway 237, a possible aerial viaduct is carried forward as the sole option in option A while ption B considers an aerial viaduct.

A "sub-option" called B1, would run an open trench all the way from the town of Atherton to Fair Oaks Avenue in Sunnyvale.

Issues found with tunnel option

A deep tunnel would "result in critical risks due to ground conditions, have major constructability issues, lengthy construction schedule and substantial cost features," the report said.

But there are exceptions. "Partially or completely covered trench or short-tunnel sections may be constructed to ameliorate either narrow right of way or environmental concerns" on the Peninsula segment, the report states.

That includes creeks.

"The San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto could be a location where a short tunnel underneath the creek would be necessary in order to not interfere with the creek's water flow."

Trench covering possible at city's expense

It says that in other sections, trenching would be designed "to not preclude future decking or coverage" which "would allow cities to cover sections of the trench if they found it desirable and if it were acceptable by Caltrain and the Authority."

Covered sections of less than 600 feet could be added later "without requiring sophisticated fire/life safety systems," it said.

Bryant said she believed the cost of covering the trench would have to be carried by the city.


Posted by Mik, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 5, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Guess that station everyone wanted in MV isn't happening.

Posted by resident, a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Voters need to act smart. Elect Meg Whitman.She will stop this HSR project.Our state is already in financial sinkhole and top of that this high speed rail project which is going to be a disaster will make living impossible. If we elect Jerry Brown, project will go ahead and we will repent for our own acts for electing Mr. Brown.

Posted by Marie, a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm

No more at-grade trains, please. They interfere with foot, bicycle, and auto traffic.

Posted by Landmark, a resident of Gemello
on Aug 5, 2010 at 6:02 pm

We should plant some landmark trees near the tracks so the HSR will have to tunnel under them like in PA.

Posted by Mr. Big, a resident of Rex Manor
on Aug 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Did I miss something? I thought they were only going to put one station between SF and SJ with RWC, PA and MV in the mix... how did Santa Clara get selected as the winner?

Posted by Kristine, a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 5, 2010 at 10:00 pm

If I had to pick, I'd go with the open or partially covered trench. The two wouldn't be as nearly as well tolerated.

Posted by Old Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 5, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Dump the whole stupid HSR idea. It's an idiotic boondoggle, a waste of money. And Meg Whitman is probably the worst possible choice for governor, although I must commend her marketing skills in getting her face on the one-dollar bill.

Posted by Jack, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 6, 2010 at 11:14 am

What an outrageous pork-barrel project this is. Nobody is paying any attention to the recent report showing corruption and graft at every level, before construction has even started. Thanks a lot, Diridon and Co., for foisting this ghastly boondoggle on the public.

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 6, 2010 at 11:28 am

I'm not sure why electing Meg Whitman is necessary to stop high-speed rail. It's already going to peter out when the high speed rail authority uses up all the current funds on public image consultants, and Aeron chairs and espresso machines for the office. We voters could stop it even earlier with a ballot initiative.

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 6, 2010 at 11:29 am

Just guessing that Santa Clara is now in the running for a station because they voted to build a stadium for the 49ers.

Posted by Sid, a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 6, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Boy I can't wait until they clear cut all those beautiful trees up and down Central Expressway. HSR will gut the place. If we're lucky we will get a freeway wall to replace them.

Posted by steve, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 6, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Oh my gosh, this is just so shocking! Who would have ever guessed that there would be corruption and mismanagement when voters sign over 10 billion dollars of money we don't have to a bunch of political flacks.

If this epic white elephant of a project proceeds it will cost significantly more than the projected budget - Government projects always do. More importantly, we quite simply cannot afford it... This I realize is a novel concept for the voters and elected officials of California

@Old Ben: Actually Jerry Brown is the worst possible choice for governor, unless of course you're a card carrying member of a public workers union

Posted by Big Al, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 6, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Old Ben and I work at City Hall. Gerry Brown is our best hope of hanging on to our far pensions.

Posted by NoHSR, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Aug 6, 2010 at 2:51 pm

GAWD! Can't we stop this SOMEHOW?!?!

Posted by Thetruth, a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2010 at 4:29 pm

notice all the teabagger whiner type comments...OOOHSR will be paid by are Great great grandkids!!! NO that would be the Trillion dollar war !!! BUILD HSR hell with the naysayers

Posted by resident, a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Big Al, all unions are destructive and that is the reason we are in economic sinkhole.The people who do not respect them self they become unions and politicians like Boxer and Brown depend on them.

Posted by Ben, a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm

I just did a calculation on the number of daily riders of SkyTain (Vancouver) for an area that has 1.3 million people. It is 5.42 percent. An overwhelming success?

Spending billions for 5 percent of the people will get of the roads. People vote to get them off the road so they can drive.

Posted by Rodger, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 7, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Does anybody have any ideas as to how we can get started on recall for this silly project? If so please write me at

Posted by Jane, a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 8, 2010 at 8:40 pm

How can we stop this project? Who should we write to? our mayors, council members, senator, congressman? If any of you have more ideas, please let us know! Thanks!

Posted by Robert McGinn, a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Thetruth wrote:

"notice all the teabagger whiner type comments...OOOHSR will be paid by are Great great grandkids!!! NO that would be the Trillion dollar war !!! BUILD HSR hell with the naysayers"

Would you make "Thetruth" your financial advisor? NEITHER WOULD I.

Because the war may be even more of a financial burden on our kids and their kids than the proposed HSR boondoggle is NOT EXACTLY A GOOD REASON FOR PROCEEDING WITH THIS FIASCO PROJECT which would wind up costing a tenth of a trillion dollars (roughly $100 billion, not to mention the annual operating deficit that will result from having to price its tickets below South West Airlines tickets.)

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