California High-Speed Rail Planning
When California High-Speed Rail is fighting for its life in Sacramento, it is moving ahead with plans to bring it to San Francisco. The agency spearheading this project.
CAHSR released the final environmental impact study for the San Francisco-to-San Jose section of the project on June 10th, 2015. If the authority’s board of directors approves the study in August, the project will be cleared from San Francisco to the northern section of Los Angeles County for environmental purposes.
Boris Lipkin, the rail authority’s regional director for Northern California, called it “a tremendous event.” As a result, we’re in a position to keep the program rolling and move toward building. We are living in an amazing period of history.
However, the project still faces enormous obstacles in the state Capitol, where legislators are still debating whether to devote the rest of the 2008 voter-approved bond to the project. At least two cities along the proposed route are threatening to sue over CAHSR’s intentions, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
Caltrain lines from Fourth and King streets to beyond Diridon Station would be used for the $5.3 billion San Francisco-to-San Jose route. High-speed trains will be powered by Caltrain’s electrification project, which is now under construction and was partially sponsored by the authority.
There is a separate proposal called as the Downtown Extension that would bring Caltrain and High-Speed Rail trains into the Salesforce Transit Center downtown from Fourth and King streets There has been environmental clearance for this project, and federal funding is on the table for it. The Pennsylvania Avenue Extension, a more hypothetical idea, would extend that tunnel towards Mission Bay and Potrero Hill.
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The environmental impact assessment outlines a wide range of improvements that will be made to the tracks, road crossings, and barriers, and Caltrain stations to support trains operating at a maximum speed of 110 miles per hour. There is now a maximum speed limit of 79 mph on this stretch of road. A 29-minute journey between SF and SJ will be possible after completion.
The project also includes a 100-acre Brisbane maintenance facility. This would be the train authority’s chosen location for the facility, which would cover a landfill and commercially zoned property. Brisbane strongly opposes the construction of a maintenance facility.
City Manager Clayton Holstine described the proposal as “a wrecking ball” that would sweep through the city of Brisbane. It’s a “100-acre behemoth” of a complex, along with plans to realign Tunnel Road and transfer the city’s fire station that has the city concerned.
There has been an “arrogant beast of the state” ramrodding through a little town,” Holstine claimed. His concern is that the Baylands development over the tracks, which might eventually house up to 2,200 people, will be harmed by the “24-hour industrial facility.” As a result, the maintenance facility would also thwart the construction of a significant life sciences office campus in Brisbane.
By failing to thoroughly investigate alternate maintenance facilities in Bayview, South San Francisco, and Gilroy, the High-Speed Rail Authority has violated the California Environmental Quality Act, according to Holstine. A huge, mostly unused site near San Francisco’s terminus is preferred by the authority because it would allow trains to be repaired and cleaned.
Proposals to enlarge the Millbrae Caltrain and BART station to include high-speed trains have also been met with criticism in Millbrae. Millbrae Serra Station, a 488-home development that has been sanctioned but has not yet been built, is at the center of a property dispute. Millbrae, according to the authority’s Lipkin, accepted the development knowing that the land would be required for the rail project.
In an earlier stage of environmental review and analysis, the authority offered an alternative that would have had a smaller impact on the development. Nonetheless, Millbrae rejected the compromise, and the authority is now recommending the original proposal, which would allow for an operationally superior train station and would replace most of the Serra Station construction site with parking lot space.
Neither Millbrae City Hall nor the developer of Serra Station responded to a request for comment, but Millbrae Mayor Anne Oliva had previously stated that “there’s certainly going to be some form of litigation here.”
With the help of property owners, Lipkin said the train authority will keep acquiring the necessary land for its operations. “We find a negotiated solution in most cases,” he added of acquisitions. “As a safety net, we do have the authority to purchase essential property to build out the system through eminent domain.”
It would cost $5.3 billion to build the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment’s preferred alternative. The San Jose-to-Merced project phase, which was cleared earlier this year, accounts for more than $1 billion of that total.
According to Mercury News, the authority’s 2022 business plan predicted the cost of the San Francisco-to-San Jose portion to be three times more than it is, due to inflation and increased uncertainty about the project’s timing and finance. According to authority CEO Brian Kelly, the complete San Francisco-to-Anaheim high-speed rail line now costs $105 billion, but that amount might now reach as high as $120 billion.
Caltrain’s electrification project may also get a share of $4.2 billion in cash from the original high-speed rail bond approved by voters in 2008 in Sacramento, California, as part of a larger transportation package. Since last year and a half, Southern California Democrats have joined Republicans in claiming they no longer believe in High-Speed Rail.
The $4.2 billion appropriations would allow the project to finish the Central Valley high-speed rail sections that are now under construction. To get to Sacramento and the Bay Area, the Merced station would serve as a transfer point for conventional trains.
To realize the promise of a three-hour ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles by high-speed rail, further billions of dollars will be needed.
For future funding, Lipkin says, the authority is considering federal programs introduced by the bipartisan infrastructure package. This made him feel better because the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, in its Plan Bay Area 2050, highlighted funding for high-speed rail as an investment priority.
California High-Speed Rail, the nation’s first and only truly high-speed rail project, has never garnered much federal assistance. A majority of the federal government’s funding for highway construction, according to Lipkin, was devoted to this purpose. A majority of our funding for high-speed rail comes from the state at this point.