Meeting on high speed rail draws 200 residents


The city held its first-ever public meeting last week dedicated entirely to the subject of high speed rail, drawing 200 people to the Senior Center on a Thursday evening for a discussion on ways the system will affect Mountain View and its residents.

The high speed rail system, approved by California voters in 2008, will be "one of the largest public works projects in the state for a very long time," said Cathy Lazarus, the city's public works director. Locally, the system would add two additional tracks along the Peninsula's Caltrain corridor for trains reaching speeds of over 100 miles per hour.

The meeting included several presentations followed by a question and answer session. Stealing the show was Bob Doty, rail transportation director for Caltrain, who answered questions about high speed rail issues with often humorous comments. As someone who managed high speed rail projects in Asia and Europe, he said, the U.S. is still seen elsewhere as a "developing country" when it comes to transportation.

Council member Mike Kasperzak talked about Mountain View's official comments in the California High Speed Rail Authority's "scoping" process this year. He said the city's concerns include effects on its historic downtown and the visual effect of a so-called "Berlin Wall" through town -- the type of structure needed if tracks are run above grade on a platform or "retained fill" structure.

The current high speed rail plan includes a station stop somewhere on the Peninsula, and the Mountain View City Council has asked for a feasibility study on a downtown station. Despite this request, and an expressed preference for tracks to run below-grade under Castro Street, no final positions have been taken by the council on either subject.

A possible downtown high speed station is an option which the Rail Authority is "going to seriously evaluate," said Joan Jenkins, Mountain View's transportation and policy manager.

Kasperzak said city officials have joined two groups focused on working with the California High Speed Rail Authority on design issues, and that the council has also formed a subcommittee on high speed rail, partly as a way for Mountain View citizens to be involved in the process.

During a question and answer period, which prioritized Mountain View residents, Doty addressed the popular option of tunneling the train through much of the Peninsula.

"Tunneling is not quite as good as you think it is," Doty said.

Aside from high cost compared to running tracks in a trench, the drawbacks of tunneling include the loud ventilation fans required, Doty said, which operate when maintenance crews are inside the tunnels in the middle of the night.

"We will get people calling on their cell phones, saying, 'listen to this,'" Doty said, relaying an example of what happened when he helped manage the construction of such a tunnel in England. "You cannot imagine what happened."

In response to the common assertion that it would be simpler for the line to terminate in San Jose rather than continue up the Peninsula corridor, Doty said it would create a severe "point load" on San Jose Diridon station. A huge number of northbound travelers would swarm the San Jose station, and the Caltrain system, to continue up the Peninsula. He said it would take 1.5 Caltrain trains to take on the capacity from each high speed rail train -- and the Caltrain system is "already at capacity" at peak hours.

Doty also said that, at a quarter mile long, the peak-hour high speed rail trains would be much longer than Caltrain's trains.

The two new tracks required for high speed rail do not necessarily have to run at the same grade as the Caltrain tracks, Doty said, reflecting a change from earlier statements made by the Rail Authority.

Doty also talked extensively about Caltrain's efforts to upgrade its trains with new European style trains, which regulators now appear ready to allow after extensive crash testing by Caltrain. The tests showed that they were much safer than existing, heavier trains, even when hitting a truck at 70 miles per hour. Doty said every stop on the corridor could be reached in only 70 minutes by the lighter, fully electric trains, which are able to accelerate and stop much faster.

But funding is a problem for obtaining the new trains, Doty said, even though the current trains are due for retirement. Caltrain is funded by three agencies, including VTA and BART, that have their own priorities.

"Everybody loves Caltrain, but we get what's left over," he said.

Doty said the Rail Authority was making a concerted effort to get public opinion on the project early, because the biggest threat to the project is that it could take too much time to build. Local meetings on high speed rail station concepts are scheduled in early 2010, a draft environmental impact report for the Peninsula section is due in early 2011, and a final EIR is due in 2012.


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Posted by BD
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 15, 2009 at 6:19 am

Please change "effect" to "affect" in the first sentence.

I'm glad to hear that turnout was so high. Getting involved through presentations and workshops like this one is one way to avoid reflexive NIMBY-ism. If someone attended the session and still doesn't want the train, at least they have real information to work with!

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Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Castro City
on Dec 15, 2009 at 9:11 am

There has been little mention of a station south of Castro where 85, the VTA, 237, 101, and even 280 are more easily accessible than at Castro and Central. It's getting built up slowly but has been largely vacant with empty space left by former companies. That would keep non-local traffic from gridlocking Castro and maybe Moffet Blvd.

Also the railroad runs along side Central Expwy and the VTA at Castro. The Castro Street commercial district does not cross the RR tracks and Central and need not.

A wall through built up downtown is not necessary, it could be a section of elevated tracks here instead with a short sound wall and absorbing material next to the wheels.

Could it even be an elevated OVER the present Caltran tracks whose underside would be a convenient place for the Caltran electrification structures? That would minimally disrupt downtown Mountain View, one would think. A wall would be very disruptive and the expense of condemnation and so on might even make it higher cost. Remember also that earthquake resistance is very important to us.

There are two VTA tracks south of Castro that might serve to increase capacity between such a high speed rail station and the Mountain View Transit Center rather than buses on Evelyn. Note also that there appears present room to extend a VTA track across Castro to the station next to San Antonio overpass and Central, but not beyond that. An elevated structure through the center of Mountain View which is densely built up would still allow the possibility. It would all be a lot less expensive than a tunnel which sounds like it wouldn't happen.

If we are to have a high speed rail I hope that we here in Mountain View can have all the arguments and then get with the program. With California and the US in the financial straits we are in it's not clear that it's all affordable. It would not be good to disrupt the project for 12 years and end up with an unfinished construction site for a decade after that.

ps - I live on Central Avenue a couple blocks south of Moffet Blvd. What neighborhood is that in the list?

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Posted by Don Frances
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Dec 15, 2009 at 10:19 am

Don Frances is a registered user.


Thanks for catching that. I made the change.

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Posted by Catherine
a resident of Jackson Park
on Dec 15, 2009 at 10:20 am

An interesting idea to elevate the train over the existing Caltrain tracks. Challenging with all the pedestrian and automotive overpasses on Central, though?

I still don't see how another set can be fit in there with VTA and Caltrain tracks in the way (and, by the way, let me say again how silly it would be to see *three* competing train systems, all incompatible with one another, sitting there side by side.)

PS: maguro_01 - Closest "neighborhood" to you on the drop down list is Jackson Park (which is central avenue on the *other* side of moffett)

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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2009 at 11:33 am

What sort of speed units are "100 piles per hour"?

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Posted by NeHi
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 15, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Interesting comment: "the U.S. is still seen elsewhere as a "developing country" when it comes to transportation". It is not as obvious now but San Francisco, the Peninsula, Central Valley, Salinas Valley and the East Bay all developed around rail transportation. Much of Contra Costa developed around BART. BART and Cal-Train are the survivors.

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Posted by Valerie
a resident of Rex Manor
on Dec 15, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I attended the meeting and found it was very informative. I wish they had given an email address to send any additional comments or questions, as we thought of a few after we left. Is it possible to find that and add it to this article? Thank you for covering this! Your article makes it a lot easier for me to tell folks what they missed :)

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Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Jackson Park
on Dec 15, 2009 at 4:19 pm

"An interesting idea to elevate the train over the existing Caltrain tracks. Challenging with all the pedestrian and automotive overpasses on Central, though?"

Yes, but doesn't the wall idea have the same problem? A wall would have to be high enough to make overpasses for Castro, Rengsdorf, etc. Was the idea to put the CalTrain tracks up there too in parallel to get them off grade level? That would really widen the tracks area and indeed be a wall. The high speed train at 100mph gets priority, so to speak, in level. It must be only able to have very gentle changes in gradient.

The Steven's Creek Trail overpass would end up being redone somehow whatever plan is used and whichever side of 85 might be used for the hypothetical station. Along Evelyn on either side of 85 is where there is so much space and central connection to all the freeways with Castro Street Transit Center as connection to other rails and most bus transit. One can see where the Transit Center parking lots and the underused office building site there could be considered too, though necessitating another parking garage.

But substantially broadening the track beds through there with parallel tracks and a wall would probably preclude a station without moving Evelyn, and close most of the Transit Center or even necessitate running the VTA up an elevated structure over Central Expwy with the side effect of removing the Central Expwy gated VTA crossing.

High speed rail must need some clearance from other trains. Perhaps it would be too expensive to run it through a sort of tube or 3/4 tube on elevated structures through built up areas and the wall idea otherwise. There must be books and picture books of Japanese high speed rail systems - Japan is an earthquake area too. And their towns must have experience living with them.

Maybe dirigibles are a better idea after all. I'm going to stop thinking about this for a bit.

Thanks for "Jackson Park"

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Posted by SunnyDaysAhead
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 15, 2009 at 4:40 pm

In order to get cars off the roads, we've got to improve public transportation. A system that makes use of the existing buses, BART, Caltrain and light rail seems like a good idea. So let's work together to determine how to add High Speed Rail into our system and see some really useful improvements.

I for one would love to ride from Mountain View to San Francisco in 15 or 20 minutes!

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Posted by curious
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 15, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I refer all interested to the Mercury-News story on this fiasco Web Link

The wheels are already coming off the trains, so to speak. For example, the current cost estimate is now $42.6 billion up from the $33 billion of the past estimate. The fares are now projected to be over 80% of airfares up from the 50% promised to the voters to pass Prop 1A. And for anyone who believes these estimates will hold, I have some nice burrowing owl habitat I can offer you, cheap.

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Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 15, 2009 at 5:25 pm

The only fiasco is the constant delaying tactics and law suits brought by the NIMBYs and their ilk. The more they delay and require more study and re-looking at rejected alternatives, the more the cost will rise, and then they will complain about the cost. And to top it off they will post with anonymous handles so as to keep hidden in the weeds.

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Posted by cc
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 15, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Train track Blow grade is better than above grade at Castro Street area. Get bulldozers dig a path at the central express way (wide enough for 4 tracks). When the rail road setion is done, replace the old train track with the new central express way. Cost a little more to dig some dirty, but imagine the saving from court battel withNIMBIes, and schedule saving. Easy Job. Let's build it.

We maybe able to build a HSR Mountain View station over the new central express way.

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Posted by Special Agent CERT
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 15, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Can anyone in the right mind think that this plan is HSR, It is NOT! by any standard in the world at the moment. I sent to the FRA a plan to run the "new" HSR track along ther bay shore and have the heavy rail maintainence facilities at Hunters Point ship yard. The HSR should run at least 225mph.

125mph top speed between the fastest point on the rail system. This is "highspeed"? on the way to LA.

Running a multi-use rail system for mixed traffic is NOT HSR. The talk was hosted by Caltrain and NOT the HSR authority.

I mean this is still smoke and mirrors with nothing funded by anyone at the moment.

The people that have actually been on a HSR know this activity is NOT HSR. TGV, ICE and Shinkansen.

I can only hope the NIMBYs send the effort into a endless delay loop until the thinking of a "REAL" HSR effort not a patch work for Caltrain comes to mind. I do not want this on the caltrain tracks as it is NOT HSR.

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Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 15, 2009 at 9:10 pm

I attended the meeting and found it to be a whitewash with lots of non information, mostly a waste of time. The Mountain View elected leaders are not doing much, more or less standing around until the High Speed Rail agency tells them, actually the people living in Mountain View, what they plan to do to us. My comment was not addressed at the meeting, only softball technical questions were talked about. Mountain View should be fighting anything other than below grade construction through Mountain View, I say join the leaders in Menlo Park and get something we can live with, otherwise we will get a above grade nightmare through our wonderful town. I idea of a station in Mountain View is nuts, High Speed Rail is supposed to replace the airlines which operate from vast airports in San Jose and San Francisco where you endless parking and people arriving and departing, where would we put all of those cars and how would our streets handle the traffic. High Speed rail would better be up highway 101 where it could stop at the San Jose and San Francisco airports with plenty of parking and real high speed transportation to anywhere in the world.

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Posted by Jarrett
a resident of Castro City
on Dec 16, 2009 at 12:04 am


CAHSR is definitely high speed rail since it will run at 220mph in the Central Valley and 110-125mph up the Peninsula. Many curves will have radii of tens of thousands of feet to allow for smooth, high-speed turns. Trains will be totally separated from cars and pedestrians while moving very rapidly. These design features are shared with other high speed train systems such as JR's Shinkansen, SNCF's TGV, and DB's ICE. Again, this is definitely high speed rail!

On the Peninsula, HSR trains will share the Caltrain right of way, but will likely stick to two center tracks that will be flanked by two tracks for Caltrain and freight. There will be switches between the two HSR inside tracks to the outside tracks so if there's a problem, trains can take advantage of the extra capacity afforded by a four track ROW. That's not so bad, is it? Hey, that actually sounds like a good idea.

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Posted by Special Agent CERT
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 16, 2009 at 5:32 am


Given it is nothing but smoke and mirrors..

These design features are shared with other high speed train systems.
As you know TGV, ICE and Shinkansen all use new rail and dedicated rail systems to make schedule and speed work. Running the train down the Peninsula at 100-125 MPH on shared rails does not make sense to me. Why not run at 220mph if the train will do this along the bayshore. The dumbarton will also come active for rail service across the bay.

Driving piles into the bay will create a lot less issue for the Peninsula and let the trains run at top speed at all hours of the day and night.

I do not understand why you think only about the rail service and the easiest way to get it done.

so in closing let us know where TGV, ICE and Shinkansen run at half speed for 100 miles in length? This is good planning ?

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Posted by curious
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 8:08 am

"ron": "And to top it off they will post with anonymous handles so as to keep hidden in the weeds."

Thanks. I needed a laugh this morning.

People are still ignoring the 800 lb gorilla in the room: financing. All this talk about above/below grade and where the stations will be is re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. NIMBYs like me will tie this up in the courts for decades and the cost will balloon to $100s Billions, which the state does not have. The tactic works great to stop nuclear power plants, refineries, and will work for the HCR. And wait until we plant burrowing owls nests along the railroad tracks, LOL.

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Posted by Lucky
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 16, 2009 at 10:57 am

Why not build the whole section between L.A. and S.J. first? It will (and should) take more time to figure out how to move people quickly through the heavily populated peninsula cities. In the meantime, we do have CalTrain. Bottom line: there's not enough funding anyway, so let's use money where it's needed now, and see what kind of extension we want to fund later.

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Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 16, 2009 at 11:11 am

Some people like CERT suggest routing the trains through East Palo Alto and Hunters Point. I have to laugh a little because there seems to be a commonality between those two communities. That's cool though, as long as it doesn't bother you or anyone else with deep pockets. Voters be damned.

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Posted by Catherine
a resident of Jackson Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Lucky, I totally agree.

One good thing the high speed rail debate has done, though, is to spur conversations about transportation options and aesthetics. As maguro_01 pointed out, it's been an interesting exercise for me to consider our patchwork system in terms of 3 dimensions -- with all of our overpasses, underpasses, etc. Imagine what will happen once we get Jetson-style flying cars. :-)

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Posted by pietro
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 16, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Was there any discussion of increased noise and noise abatement ?

The existing CalTrains already contribute alot of noise and affect the residents here.

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Posted by Special Agent CERT
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 16, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Hunters Point ship yard is owned by the BRAC commission to the best of my knowledge. It is an excellent place to build and maintain transportation stuff even the navy used to think so.

The Navy closed the shipyard and Naval base in 1994 as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). The BRAC program manages the majority of the site to this day.

The key fissile components of the first atomic bomb were loaded onto the USS Indianapolis in July 1945 at Hunters Point for transfer to Tinian.

As in most industrial zones of the era, Hunter's Point has had a succession of coal and oil fired power generation facilities, and these have left a legacy of pollution, both from smokestack effluvients and leftover byproducts that were dumped in the vicinity. The base was entirely closed in 1994, although it continues to receive attention due to the large amounts of hazardous waste remaining to be cleaned up.

After World War II and until 1969, the Hunters Point shipyard was the site of the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, the US military's largest facility for applied nuclear research, which has left many areas of the shipyard radioactively contaminated.

Nuke(LOL) electric Trains sound good to me.
The idea is to go along the "BAY" shore not the 101hwy. The stop at SFO and the ferry building would be a great picture view and great for the HRS. The dumbarton Rail bridge will become active in 2012 best I call tell, hang the HSR to Sac on the Castro Valley Grade out 580.

Let not let the caltrain folks run the HSR. This is nothing more then retrofit into a dense population that does not want this.

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Posted by Jarrett
a resident of Castro City
on Dec 16, 2009 at 11:40 pm


The HSR system will be built in phases since the demand on resources would be too high to build everything at once. Construction will likely start on the LA-Anaheim leg since that section is furthest along with design and engineering. Sections in the Central Valley and Bay Area should start soon after since engineering and design is not far behind LA-Anaheim. The mountainous links along Pacheco pass and Tehachapi pass will be the last segments built due steep and complex terrain.


HSR and Caltrain will share the same right of way and propulsion system. This means the diesel trains will be replaced with electrically powered ones that are similar to VTA light rail trains. The electric trains will be much quieter and produce less vibrations since they are lighter compared to current Caltrain trains. To get an idea of what the noise would be like around a station, take a look at this video from Germany that features trains similar to what Caltrain is planning on purchasing.

Web Link

In addition, all trains will be separated from roads and pathways so there will be a lot less horn blowing. Train frequency will increase, however.

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Posted by Special Agent CERT
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2009 at 5:30 am

Kinding station, high-speed line Ingolstadt--Nürnberg
ICE 3 at 300 kmh / 186 mph
Web Link

Ice3 filmed at 300 km/h comming from Köln going to Frankfurt
Web Link

Maglev Technology with this 581kph BEAST of a machine. Thats 361mph!!! Web Link

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Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2009 at 2:35 pm


I don't need a history lesson on Hunters Point. I'm local, I know all about it. I also know that it's a superfund site, and one of the most polluted areas in the country. Not sure how you figure that's a prime location.

You also suggested routing through East Palo Alto across the Dumbarton span. That bridge would need tremendous work before it could become capable of supporting 2 way rail.

Just admit it, you're fine with HSR as long as it runs through poorer neighborhoods and skips the peninsula all together. It's really not that hard to read that in your suggestions.

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Posted by Special Agent CERT
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Hi Bruno

If HSR is to bring wealth and business to the peninsula why not let it bring this activity to the poorer areas ?

The Dumbarton Rail bridge, is in the process of being studied and restored. Web Link
The HRS study for Caltrain is also years away from being reality.

On rail in general:
It will not run through east palo alto rather stopping at the port of redwood city before switching to the route accross the bay.
Web Link

If Hunters point can be brought back to life, why not fund it with the folks who made it a superfund site?
Web Link

It is an excellent site for both rail and ship access.

Yet instead The primary planning for the effort is for a profit based activity, Caltrain? who could care less about helping the poor?, yet thinking this is the only railway to use?

happy holidays.

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Posted by Catherine
a resident of Jackson Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Hope the high-speed rail folks have been reading all about the Chunnel troubles. Major disruptions from some "fluffy snow"

Web Link

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

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