Page 4
May-June 2002
Q and A
High Speed Rail
How would High Speed Rail cross the
mountain ranges between the Bay Area,
the Central Valley, and the Los Angeles
Consultants have drawn up
detailed engineering studies showing how
HSR would cross the Diablo Range
southeast of San Jose, and the Tehachapi
Mountains south of Bakersfield. Mountain
routing options include extensive tunnels
and bridges, so that grades do not exceed
3.5%. (By
comparison, 6% is
the steepest grade
found on freeways
over the mountains.)
Even while climbing
a 3.5% grade, high
speed trains are
capable of maintaining a 200
mph or faster speed, according
to Dan Leavitt, Deputy Director of
the CA High Speed Rail Authority
(CHSRA). Prior to December 2001, the
CHSRA had considered a 31-mile tunnel
all the way across the Diablo Range on the
San Jose-Merced line. Upon enlisting help
from international tunneling experts and
state-of-the-art alignment modeling
software, the CHSRA cut billions from cost
estimates by limiting individual tunnel
lengths to six miles in both mountain
Why have HSR planners selected the
Highway 99 corridor through the Central
Valley? Why not route HSR along I-5, or
via 101 along the coast?
The Highway 99 route makes the
most sense for serving the greatest number
of people on one line, and for linking
Southern California with both Sacramento
and the Bay Area via a single line for most
of the distance. A large proportion of HSR
ridership is projected to come from the
Central Valley, from cities such as Stockton,
Modesto, Fresno and Bakersfield. Airlines
serve these cities poorly, and
ground level fog often hampers
Central Valley highways and
aviation facilities during the
winter months. Weather
has negligible effect
on rail operations.
Due to further decline in sales tax
revenue, Santa Clara County and VTA have
proposed to eliminate some Caltrain
improvement projects. These projects were
earmarked for funding from the Measure A/
B sales tax passed by voters in 1996. The
newest estimate projected a revenue shortfall
of $205 million, up from the $114 million
projected last December.
To address this deficit, VTA staff
presented an "Issue Paper" to the Board of
Supervisors on April 30. In the document,
they gave recommendations for reducing
expenditures. These included preserving
funding for projects that are already well into
design or under construction. However, they
proposed cutting the Measure B Caltrain
budget by $20 million, a reduction of almost
25%. Besides Caltrain, the county also has
considered cutting projects along Highways
17 and 85.
The impacts to Caltrain projects would
be significant because most of the individual
projects along the rail line have yet to reach
the design and construction phase. "Caltrain
is going to take a big hit, except for certain
parking projects that are well into design,"
said BayRail executive director Margaret
Okuzumi. Okuzumi also serves on the
Measure A/B Citizen Watchdog Committee.
To offset some of the revenue reduction,
state funding that was allocated in 2000 by the
Governor would replace sales tax funding for
Caltrain projects south of San Jose.
Despite the budget woes, BayRail
believes that some Caltrain safety
improvements, which also would speed up
service, need to be funded. These include
outside boarding platforms and pedestrian
undercrossings at California Avenue and
Santa Clara stations. These stations
currently present a safety hazard with narrow
center platforms. They also delay service
because only one train can enter the station
at a time. "Our highest priority is station
improvements which enhance safety, train
speed and reliability." Okuzumi said, "With
help of letters and phone calls from our
members and friends, BayRail sent a clear
message and we are still hopeful that VTA
and the county will use any remaining funds
to improve unsafe stations."
Oakland ($10.3 billion), expanded connector
roads to the Dumbarton Bridge ($760 million),
and operational improvements plus express
bus expansions on all bridges ($820 million).
BayRail has been a strong advocate
for Dumbarton Rail and a future conventional
rail crossing between San Francisco and
Oakland. In early 2001 in response to BayRail
and others, the Caltrain Joint Powers Board
voted to become the future operator of
Dumbarton Rail. Plans for the Caltrain
extension to downtown San Francisco also
include tail tracks to connect to a future
transbay crossing.
The much lower cost of Dumbarton
Rail presented by the Bay Crossing Study
should further reinforce political support for
the train service. Moreover, local sales tax
programs in San Mateo, Santa Clara, and
Alameda Counties contain earmarks for the
service. Many public officials who support
Dumbarton Rail have voiced concerns about
the increased traffic on existing roadways,
especially Highway 101 near SF Airport, if a
new highway bridge were built.
Because of the expected high cost for a
conventional rail crossing between San
Francisco and Oakland, transbay buses (and
to a lesser extent, ferries) will be the focus for
expanded transit between Oakland and San
Francisco in the near term. The Caltrain
downtown extension is part of a larger project
for an improved and expanded Transbay
Terminal to serve additional buses from the
East Bay. Transbay buses, which would
greatly benefit from additional reserved lanes,
are able to serve many cities and
neighborhoods in the East Bay that are not
well served by BART.
, from page 1]
South Bay Tax Drop Puts Caltrain Projects in Peril
Study Favors Dumbarton Rail