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40580San Carlos makes hay over obviously minor HSR construction issue

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  • 2/25 SJ Mercury
    Feb 25, 2009
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      Published Wednesday, February 25, 2009, by the San Jose Mercury News

      Major high-speed rail dilemma discovered in San Carlos

      By Mike Rosenberg
      Daily News Staff Writer

      New tracks in San Carlos for the state's proposed bullet train could
      bar high-profile vehicles from a key route to and from Highway 101,
      city engineers have discovered.

      In the latest of several concerns Peninsula officials have raised
      about the new high-speed rail line, San Carlos officials sent the
      state a letter Monday in which they explain how Holly Street would
      be negatively affected by the project.

      Two tracks for the bullet train would be built parallel to the
      existing Caltrain tracks that run through San Carlos east of El
      Camino Real. The existing tracks cross Holly Street via a grade
      separation -- where they are elevated above the U-shaped roadway.

      The rail bridge would need to be widened to accommodate the
      additional tracks, which would lower the vertical clearance of the
      street below, said Robert Weil, the city's public works director.

      Fifteen feet of vertical clearance is needed underneath the bridge;
      the clearance is currently 15 feet and three inches.

      It appears the new tracks and wider bridge would reduce the clearance
      to less than 15 feet, Weil said.

      "So something has to give," he said. "Either Holly Street has to be
      re-lowered or the whole rail structure has to be raised. Otherwise
      a tall truck would run right into the bottom of the bridge."

      Lowering Holly may not be possible because the street may not comply
      with roadway design standards, Weil said.

      The California High Speed Rail Authority is accepting comments through
      April 6 before it begins planning the San Francisco-to-San Jose
      portion of the high-speed rail line, which is expected to whisk
      passengers from the Bay Area to Southern California in 2½ hours.

      In their letter, San Carlos officials urged the rail authority to
      address the engineering conflict in detail and to determine the
      impacts of raising the bridge.

      Rail authority officials on Monday told the San Carlos City Council
      that it may be possible to raise the bridge, said Assistant City
      Manger Brian Moura.

      It isn't clear yet what sort of legal action the city could take to
      resolve the issue if the rail authority fails to develop a solution,
      Weil said.

      The rail authority only recently learned of the issue, said Deputy
      Director Dan Leavitt.

      "There may be some adjustments to the road profile, that's something
      we'll look at," Leavitt said. "We'll certainly try to minimize any
      sort of impacts we can on existing facilities."

      San Carlos' letter included roughly a dozen comments on the proposed
      bullet train. The authors called for a visual impact study, a noise
      volume analysis and raised concerns about potential increases in
      vibration. The letter did not mention other potential conflicts
      with the city's other grade separation, over Brittan Avenue.

      A group representing the neighborhood near the tracks, Greater East
      San Carlos, will also submit a letter to the state, said President
      Ben Fuller. It cites eight concerns, including the need for
      long-term parking and increased landscaping around the tracks.

      San Carlos is the latest of several Peninsula cities to question the
      bullet train project. It recently came under fire in Palo Alto and
      other towns that have been meeting to discuss forming a consortium
      to better negotiate with the rail authority.

      E-mail Mike Rosenberg at mike.rosenberg@...