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HSRA to consider costly tunneling HSR through Peninsula cities

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  • 2/20 Palo Alto Weekly
    Published Friday, February 20, 2009, by the Palo Alto Weekly Tunnels to be considered for high-speed rail Residents, city officials prefer underground option
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 20, 2009
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      Published Friday, February 20, 2009, by the Palo Alto Weekly

      Tunnels to be considered for high-speed rail

      Residents, city officials prefer underground option despite added
      costs

      By Gennady Sheyner

      As Palo Altans continue to define their love-hate relationship with
      the high-speed rail project, residents and city officials are
      increasingly looking to deep-underground tunnels as a possible
      solution.

      On Tuesday night, city officials and dozens of concerned residents
      voiced concerns and vented frustrations about the project at a packed,
      two-hour community meeting with officials from the California High-
      Speed Rail Authority, the agency charged with building the 800-mile
      rail line between San Francisco and San Diego.

      Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie said the rail authority has assured
      city officials that it will consider the option of installing tunnels
      for high-speed trains on the Peninsula. But local officials have been
      floating the idea of building underground tunnels for months, with
      Emslie, Councilman John Barton and former mayor Bern Beecham among the
      leading proponents of the underground alternative (for an in-depth
      look at the tunnel discussion, see Weekly's Sept. 26, 2008, edition)
      [BATN: Or just see <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39430>
      and <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39431>.]

      On Tuesday, residents voiced two clear messages: They want a bigger
      say in the design process and they would much rather have a rail line
      that zips through tunnels than one that whooshes past over their heads
      on raised tracks, which some city officials are calling a "Berlin
      Wall" dividing Palo Alto.

      It would be "the difference between blight and Park Avenue," Judith
      Wasserman, a member of the Palo Alto's Architectural Review Board,
      said of the tunnel-versus-elevated tracks alternative.

      "If somehow the High-Speed Rail Authority decides to put it above
      ground anyway, is there recourse or do we all just have to lie down
      on the tracks?" Wasserman asked the crowd gathered in a Palo Alto
      Unified School District conference room at 25 Churchill Ave.

      Others were less blunt but equally vociferous in opposing an above-
      ground design. Because the system must be grade separated, the new
      tracks would have to be elevated 16 feet above existing streets or
      speed through the less disruptive but more costly tunnels several
      dozen feet underground.

      With the engineering for the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment of
      the project just getting started, it's not clear which option the
      rail authority will choose. It's also not clear whether Palo Alto
      or Redwood City will get a station, for which Redwood City officials
      are reportedly already lobbying.

      Emslie said staff is working on a report on the high-speed rail
      project, which the City Council is scheduled to discuss March 2.

      On Tuesday, Emslie joined many others in preaching the benefits of
      tunnels. He said many major transportation projects around the world
      are utilizing state-of-the-art technology to create below-grade
      separations.

      "Obviously, cost is a major consideration," Emslie said. "But the
      high-speed-rail authority has confirmed with us that they're
      obligated and will study the tunneling option through the Peninsula."


      [BATN: See also:

      Atherton wants HSR underground -- prepares 28-page letter
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40509

      Comment: Undergrounding Caltrain in Palo Alto an old idea
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39475

      Editorial: Undergrounding Caltrain, HSR tracks worth exploring
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39431

      Palo Alto leaders propose putting Caltrain, HSR underground
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39430 ]
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