High-Speed Rail Won’t Be Four Tracks on the Peninsula, Officials Hope

Legislation calls for limiting California high-speed rail on the Peninsula to two tracks along the Caltrain right-of-way, not four.

Local officials plan to create a safeguard requiring California high-speed rail to blend with Caltrain’s existing two track system when it whizzes through the Peninsula.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) is unveiling legislation Friday at the Palo Alto Caltrain station that would close loopholes and ensure that money from Prop 1A, the high-speed bond measure approved by California voters in 2008, would be used to build a two-track blended system from San Francisco to San Jose. Funds originally allocated to the Peninsula segment cannot be transferred to other segments of the high-speed rail.

Over the past few years, local officials and hundreds of residents have expressed concerns about a four-track option through the Peninsula, in which the high-speed rail was designed to race along its own track.

Authority officials last year assured Hill that a four-track system would not be built when the senator helped strike a deal providing $705 million from high-speed bond money – that will be matched with local funds – to electrify Caltrain by 2019. With Caltrain electrified, high-speed rail could share the same existing tracks. 

“Caltrain electrification has been needed for years, but prior to the State's appropriation, obtaining funding was an obstacle,” said Jerry Hill in a statement.

The bill clarifies that the $1.1 billion appropriated by the legislature last year will include $600 million for Caltrain electrification.  Combined with an additional appropriation of $105 million for Caltrain’s advanced signaling system, the state has committed a total of $705 million for the Caltrain electrification project.

The switch to electric power will allow Caltrain to run faster, more frequent trains and accommodate increased ridership, Hill said. In addition to being quieter than current trains and reducing emissions by 90 percent, the increased ridership and revenue from an electrified system could reduce Caltrain's operating subsidy by almost 50 percent.

At the news conference, Caltrain officials will provide an update on the first phase of the electrification project.  The initial $40 million allocation is funding work on an advanced signaling system that will increase safety. 


Tell us in the comments below: Would you be okay with high-speed rail if it cruised along Caltrain's existing tracks? 

KDM February 22, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Please be aware that Senator Hill's legislation will require that future HSR configurations "PRIMARILY consists of a two-track blended system to be used jointly by high-speed rail trains and Caltrain, with the system to be contained SUBSTANTIALLY within the existing Caltrain right-of-way." These are not guarantees. CalTrain openly admits that they need a 3rd passing track somewhere, and their first choice is BELMONT. This will require a complete rebuilding of the Caltrain overpasses through Belmont and effectively wipe out a large portion of the adjacent businesses. Don't be complacent.
Bill McDonald April 12, 2013 at 05:40 PM
One additional track is not going to wipeout existing businesses. It would require only about 25 feet of additional right of way. A two track system with short three or four track segments is going to cost substantially less and be quIte satisfactory for some time. If and when additional capacity is required that issue can be delt with in the future. By that time most of today's opponents will have expired and so will not be affected. Modern signaling systems are configured with what are called "moving blocks" allowing trains to operate at higher speeds safely and with less spacing between movements. It makes economic sense.


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