High Speed Rail

by David Lewis, OMVNA Community Liaison

VIEW the illustrations of High Speed Rail in Mountain View HERE.

Video visualizations of High Speed Rail. Click HERE.

California High Speed Rail Authority’s web page: Click HERE

Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design: Click HERE

Peninsula Cities Consortium: Click HERE

Caltrain-HSR Compatibility Blog: Click HERE

The elevated tracks would be about 30′ high at the tracks, and about 40′ high at the top of the towers for the power lines above the tracks; the elevated tracks would be about 100′ in width. If you want to see something similar look at the CA-85 overpass at Evelyn that is about the same height and width. An elevated track would require converting San Antonio and Shoreline to at-grade intersections with Central with signals.

For the at-grade track alignment, Castro would run through an underpass about 20′ underneath the tracks, and Central would have to be lowered to match the height of Castro. The lowering at Castro would begin at Villa or before on the MV side; the cross-section drawing shown is for the middle of the 100 block of Castro. An at-grade track would also require rebuilding of the Shoreline and San Antonio overpasses to provide more vertical clearance for the high speed rail. The changes at Castro and Rengstorff would have major impact on the businesses close to HSR. With the Caltrain tracks, HSR tracks and VTA all at grade level, either the Tech Farm office buildings would have to go, or we would lose a couple of lanes from Central Expressway.

For the trench configuration, Castro might have to be elevated a bit (7′ or less) because of grade restrictions, but otherwise things wouldn’t change much; the trench alignment, with a partially covered trench, would permit a linear park (greenway) running from Castro to Rengstorff, and would permit some additional retail or other space adjacent to Castro over the covered part of the trench. The trench alternative would undoubtedly produce the least noise, though HSRA refuses to provide any noise figures. The consequences for Rengstorff are similar to those for Castro but there wouldn’t be any elevation of Rengstorff required.

Some other issues–no one knows who will pay for extra work and land acquisition outside of the Caltrain right-of-way; it’s not clear how Mountain View can get the HSR authority to build something we can live with, and whatever we do has to be compatible with the designs in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale.

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5 Responses to High Speed Rail

  1. cricket says:

    With the new option of “At grade, with Castro closed at Central”, I would change my vote from “Trench”.

    Although businesses would likely be opposed, they should visit some small cities that have done this and I think they’d find a thriving downtown.

  2. DCraft says:

    I was surprised I ended up picking the at-grade option–I went in thinking trench. However, I hadn’t realized there would be a 7′ rise to the tracks. I think that will be significant, visually, looking down Castro toward a fence-height end. The drawing shows a retaining wall in front of the storefronts nearest the track–sort of leaving them in a trench–and Evelyn dead ends at the berm on one side.

    Sitting with a friend for dinner outside Xanh the other night, we paused conversation as the train went by, then commented on how European it felt to be eating outside with a bustling nightlife and trains going by. That seating area would be up against the retaining wall with the trench option, and we would only hear the train, not see it.

    Then I looked at the at-grade drawing. The outside seating at restaurants near the tracks would actually be above road level, with more view of pedestrians and shops in the distance than vehicles a few feet from me. There are various terraces, pedestrian bridges, and towers.

    With the at-grade option, the main losers in terms of view are vehicles driving on Castro/Moffett and Central. It is a longish underpass and we’d be looking at retaining walls on the side, but I’d rather suffer that a minute or so in the car than when walking or dining downtown.

    I am concerned about losing lanes on Central, which is one of the possibilities with the at-grade option. I’d rather nix VTA (as a concept, I was really behind light rail, but…) or lose a few commercial buildings along Evelyn.

    So I think I’d be good with the trench or at-grade options, surprisingly leaning toward at-grade. What I could not endure is that arial monstrosity.

    –Dan, Velarde St.

  3. alisonhicks says:

    I chose the trench but I can’t say I really understand what would happen to the first block of Castro St. businesses, which is pretty much the heart of our traditional downtown.

    My impression from the visualizations is that there would be a long park everywhere except where the train comes up for stops in downtowns up and down the peninsula.

    Seems like the cheapest options would decimate the traditional downtowns that give peninaula cities charactar and has the potential to shift business out of our downtowns and to shopping malls and El Camino-type strips if HSR planning is not done with care.

    I see estimates of construction costs for each option but no estimates for costs to downtowns of bad development options.

  4. mdeem says:

    I chose the trench as the first option, but at over a billion as opposed to $155M for the at-grade, it’s not likely to happen. I’d love to be wrong, but it doesn’t seem feasible. Then again, the cost and likelihood of acquiring the adjacent land for the at-grade crossing may not be factored into the $155M figure in the Voice…

    The overhead option is horrible. Boston had the elevated freeway, areas under it was a wasteland. Ditto San Francisco. It would totally destroy that end of town.

  5. deb says:

    David, can you add the the costs of these options or at least order of magnitude of the cost?

    Deb Keller
    Loreto Street

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