High Speed Rail Open House

Proposed routes for the High Speed Train through San Jose.

Proposed routes for the High Speed Train through San Jose.

I just got back from the California High Speed Rail Authority San Jose – Merced Section open house at Roosevelt Community Center (I read about it here).

I was expecting a stage presentation, but what they did was much better. They presented posters around the room and had dozens of representatives on hand to answer questions. The representatives weren’t just from the PR department, but also included engineers, project managers, etc. The ratio of visitors to hosts was probably only 4:1, which gave a great opportunity to ask any question.

And there were plenty of questions. High speed rail looks like all positives for the city and for the state of California, but there are people who will lose out. Residents from neighborhoods where the train is planned to pass through were there, asking tough questions:

  • How much noise is it going to make?
  • Is it going to disrupt traffic?
  • Is it going to block the view of the mountains, or block the sun from my backyard?

And mostly the Rail Reps had answers, although maybe some homeowners weren’t satisfied. For example, whatever noise the trains make, the rail builders will “mitigate” them to certain levels defined by federal law. But that might mean a giant view-blocking soundwall.

One concern I’ve seen around the net is that these sound walls could be as high as 80 or 90 feet. The rep I talked to said that’s unlikely. On most of the route, the track would be no more than 20 feet above the ground, putting the top of the train about 30 feet up when it goes by. Only in one scenario where the track passes over the 280-101 interchange – which already creates a noisy and unsightly obstruction – would the train be much higher off the ground.

But if those concerns can be satisfied, there’s plenty to gain from a high speed train to LA:

  • High-speed trains use 1/3 the energy of air travel and 1/5 the energy of auto travel.
  • The high-speed train system is expected to cost two to three times less than expanding freeways and airports to meet equal passenger demand.
  • Travel time from San Francisco to Los Angeles is expected to be 2 h 38 m.
  • The rail project is expected to create 150,000 construction jobs, and spur economic development to the tune of 450,000 permanent jobs in California.

(source: California High Speed Rail Authority website)

I am sure hoping this plan can turn into reality in the near future.

1 Comment so far

  1. More Humpday fun! (pingback) on January 13th, 2010 @ 11:04 am

    […] SJ Metblog on the CAHSR open house […]

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