Mountain View Voice

News - May 14, 2010

City gets first glimpse of $100,000 HSR images

Sketches reveal what rail crossings may look like at Rengstorff, Castro

by Daniel DeBolt

Thanks to some expensive new drawings, visualizing what high speed rail will look like in Mountain View just got easier.

A $100,000 contract approved by the City Council on March 23 has already produced six preliminary designs for high speed rail crossings at Rengstorff and Castro streets in Mountain View. The drawings are by Freedman, Tung & Sasaki, a San Francisco design firm that designed much of Castro Street's redevelopment.

Council members were excited to finally see the drawings on Monday and Tuesday, which they said were unusual for a city to have this early in the project. City officials hope that the California High Speed Rail Authority will take note of the community's preferred option.

"I love the trench alternative," said council member Laura Macias as she pointed to one of the drawings likely to be the favorite, according to input from residents at a May 3 hearing. Castro Street is raised seven feet to allow the four tracks to go underneath in a trench. Half of the trench is covered, with the downtown's light rail stop sitting above the trench along with a greenway connecting Castro Street to Rengstorff Park, which Macias happily pointed out. The Caltrain platform is placed underground.

"These are conceptual images to try to help the community and the City Council visualize the various high-speed rail track alternatives," said public works director Mike Fuller. "They are based on very preliminary information from the California High Speed Rail Authority. As we get new information from the Rail Authority, we will adjust our images."

There are three basic design options drawn for the Castro Street and Rengstorff Avenue crossings: the tracks could run on an elevated platform, in a partially covered tunnel underneath the streets, or the streets could be depressed to run under ground level "at-grade" tracks.

"The images reinforce to me what a major effect such a solution would have on our downtown," said Mayor Ronit Bryant.

The biggest consequence for downtown may be in the at grade option where portions of Castro Street are depressed all the way from Villa Street to Central Avenue That would alter how people use the historic 100 block of Castro Street, and would require an elevated pedestrian crossing mid-block. But that option has the advantage of an elevated crossing over Central Expressway, though others could as well, Fuller said.

Another consequence for downtown is that the city's 1888 train depot replica at the corner of Castro Street and Evelyn Avenue has to be moved away from the tracks in the at-grade option, Fuller said.

Council member Margaret Abe-Koga said she was concerned about the cost of the trench option, though she had concerns about the elevated and at grade alternatives.

In Mountain View, the Rail Authority reports a cost of $155 million for at-grade tracks, $344 million for an aerial viaduct, $615 million for an open trench and $1.4 billion for a covered trench.

The elevated platform option downtown is "overwhelming" as Bryant put it, because it has to be wide enough for Caltrain platforms on each side of the four tracks.

In the Rengstorff Avenue options, Crisanto Drive along Rengstorff Park is closed off in the at-grade alternative. Existing businesses and homes remain in the three designs for Rengstorff Avenue, including Mi Pueblo Market.

The city expects to have more detailed images before a City Council discussion of the images on May 25. Additional drawings will eventually include some street level views, Fuller said.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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