Is there room for high-speed station? | September 10, 2010 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - September 10, 2010

Is there room for high-speed station?

Council to discuss city's interest in terminal for high-speed trains

by Daniel DeBolt

If Mayor Ronit Bryant is correct, adding a high-speed rail terminal to the transit center could lead to a substantial makeover of the city's downtown — which will be the topic of a City Council study session set for next week.

"Part of the conversation about a high-speed rail station needs to be about whether we as a community are interested in what rail authority consultant John Litzinger called 'a potential complete redevelopment opportunity'" last month, Bryant said in an e-mail.

"A high speed rail station does not simply involve longer platforms and an additional building along the train tracks, but probably implies far-reaching changes to our city," Bryant said, "not necessarily just downtown."

The discussion about that potential redevelopment begins Monday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center. California High-Speed Rail Authority officials will be on hand, as will some models to help illustrate the size and shape of the station structures that might be built.

Designs have yet to be drawn, but the basic requirements for such stations are significant. City officials say that a high-speed rail station would require a 65,000-square-foot station building, a quarter-mile long platform and 3,000 parking spaces. That includes 1,000 spaces near the station and 2,000 long-term parking spaces within three miles of the station.

Such a station would have significant impacts to the character of downtown, if not the entire city, as traffic increases along with property values, and pressure to build taller and denser buildings results.

Palo Alto and Redwood City are also candidates for the one station to be built on the Midpeninsula, but those cities have recently expressed sharp opposition to the impacts high-speed rail will have on their cities.

Station design

The design of a station depends on whether the tracks will be run at street level, in a ditch or on an aerial viaduct. It may be possible to have the station actually built over the tracks, said Jacqueline Solomon, deputy public works director.

While running the tracks on an aerial viaduct appeared to be off the table for Mountain View in the latest analysis of alternatives from the rail authority, it reappeared as the preferred option in a recent application for federal funding for the project. It was shown as a hypothetical design in case the rail authority was forced to build the project on a tight budget.

The yet-to-be-chosen track alignment will also have consequences for the downtown light rail line, which runs along the rail corridor. If the trains are run at street level, the light rail station would have to be placed underground and trains would have to run in a tunnel before going under Central Expressway and turning north to climb back up to street level in the Whisman Station housing development.

The costs

Litzinger said the authority would build all the stations in the San Francisco-to-San Jose corridor. But it would be up to local communities and private investors to develop parking structures for the new stations, he said. The parking garages could be privately run, with parking fees paying for their construction.

"The view is that it can be done from an investment standpoint and not necessarily as a city-run operation, unless the city desires to do that," he said.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at


Posted by Peter, a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Suppose private funding can't be found for parking structures. Will one still be built? Who will pay for it? Are they mandated by the rail authority?

Also, seems to me that Mt. View has a pretty vibrant downtown community, why would the city want to buy into a so-called "a potential complete redevelopment opportunity" that would undo a lot of good things and throw the city into turmoil for a long time to come.

It also seems that these parking requirements are based on quite flawed ridership numbers. Will there be a credible reality check before anybody spends money to build anything or even plan structures?

Posted by not_here, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 14, 2010 at 3:04 pm

If the HSR ever gets built, I would totally ride it. But I don't really care if there is a station in Mountain View. I'm not opposed to it, but I'd want to make sure the city gets state funding to build the train station and stuff. I didn't think there's land in the downtown area to build a decent hotel, which is something you'd need, if you are hoping to turn downtown Mountain View into a tourism hub.

That said, couldn't we just let one of the neighboring cities be the HSR station, and we can take the caltrain there?

Posted by Lew, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 15, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I had a hard time picturing the size is this project so I looked up train stations in the French TGV (high speed train) network and discovered the Avignon TGV station is of comparable size to that described in the article. The link to the Avignon station is here: Web Link

The Avignon station platform is 400-m (1/4 mile) long (same length as described in the article). The web page shows a map of the of the station's location and size and of the surrounding parking areas for 1800 vehicles. There's also a photo of the station's interior.

To picture what 65,000 square feet looks like, the Nob Hill store at the Grant Road Center is 58,000 square feet (the store's interior space including storage in the building's rear). Also, the parking structure off Castro (the one with the Longs/CV store) has capacity for about 400 vehicles.

Hope this helps.

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