Column: Elevated HSR seems inevitable in San Mateo, Burlingame
- Published Tuesday, August 3, 2010, by the San Mateo County Times
Elevated tracks for high-speed rail seem inevitable in San Mateo, Burlingame
By John Horgan
San Mateo County Times
Evidence continues to mount that deep concerns in San Mateo and Burlingame over how a high-speed rail line may be built there are going to be realized.
Slowly -- very, very slowly -- it is becoming apparent that officials planning a high-speed rail system through the Peninsula along the existing Caltrain corridor are committed to building viaducts on key portions of the route.
A recent memo relating to complex issues regarding construction funding indicated that, in San Mateo and Burlingame in particular, an aerial or raised platform option would be much preferred over trenching. That would make sense.
A trench through much of San Mateo, especially the downtown business district, would require taking established properties by eminent domain. The current Caltrain right of way appears to be too narrow to accommodate a four-track setup north of Ninth Avenue.
Tunneling, the preferred choice of officials in San Mateo and Burlingame, would be too expensive. That alternative seems to be off the table at this point, at least as far as the rail authority's memo, available on the agency's website, is concerned.
Critics of the raised-platform option worry that such huge structures would be blots on the landscape, divide their towns and lower property values nearby.
But increasingly it seems likely that San Mateo and Burlingame, both of which have utilized rail depots as downtown linchpins since the 19th century, could be facing drastic visual changes that will alter their character and ambiance irrevocably.
The High-Speed Rail Authority board will hold its regular monthly meeting 9 a.m. Thursday at the Milton Marks Conference Center, 455 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco.
The board's agenda includes an item relating to alignment alternatives on the Peninsula section of the high-speed rail system, along with important funding matters.
You can contact John Horgan by e-mail at jhorg@... or by regular snail mail at P.O. Box 117083, Burlingame, CA 94011.