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High Speed Rail to Run Above Ground in San Carlos

by Chuck Gillooley

Plan Released

According to the detailed plan that was released by the California High Speed Rail Authority on Thursday, most of the high-speed rail section that will someday traverse the Peninsula and the South Bay will do so above ground, and not in an underground trench as many communities had hoped for.   According to this article in the Daily News, the Rail Authority assigned most Peninsula cities above-ground implementations since they are the least expensive, but that decision was not well received by many community leaders on the Peninsula who were lobbying very hard to minimize the intrusion of the new rail system.

Elevated? Been There, Done That…

While many communities on the Peninsula now face the first prospect of an elevated train track splitting their city, San Carlos is one of the only cities that has at least some experience in this area.   Years ago, amidst a sea of contention, San Carlos opted to elevate the Caltrain tracks through its city limits as a way to alleviate the chronic traffic tie-ups at the railroad crossings.   Opponents to the plan believed that an elevated berm would isolate the east side of the city from the west — a fear many community leaders on the Peninsula are now expressing for their own constituents.

Whether or not this was the net effect on San Carlos is a subjective matter, but what one cannot argue is the fact that traffic flow at the Howard Avenue, Brittan Avenue, and Holly Street intersections is immeasurably better since the tracks were elevated.  They’re still far from perfect, but much better than before.

A Little More Noise?

Aside from the isolation concerns, one of the biggest objections to an elevated track will be the noise impact.   It’s not a stretch to see how the wind noise and rail noise that’s generated by a train that is capable of 200 mph will be far different (and quite possibly louder) than what we’re accustomed to with CalTrain today.   Granted, the train will likely not be hitting those speeds on the Peninsula, but the noise element will be a big concern for many.

In reality, with all of the objections already being voiced by community leaders, it’s easy to see how the whole California High Speed Rail idea could spend the next decade or so in the court system…instead of fulfilling the dream of a high-speed rail backbone in California.

What are your thoughts on the High Speed Rail Initiative?
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High Speed Rail to Run Above Ground in San Carlos, 2.8 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
Comments 3
  • I’m very surprised at how little attention this subject has received from San Carlos citizens and leaders alike. Citizens have shared strong opinions on this blog on the disruptive nature of sports complexes, In and Out restaurants, and Dollar Tree stores.
    Yet HSR will likely involve disruptions to our city that dwarf these and other more local concerns.

    This is a billion dollar project that apparently is charging ahead despite a very shaky business model and questionable financial and community impacts. I’m also curious why city officials have been largely silent on this (I believe Burlingame, Belmont, Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto are part of a coalition). I would caution that just because we already have an elevated track doesn’t mean this project won’t impact all of us in a very real way. The peninsula coalition is raising very real and valid concerns that represent our interests.

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    • I’m actually a little surprised too at the lack of reaction to the proposed high-speed rail system. But at least one San Carlos City Council member has spoken out in favor of the system and the elevated track: Cities Get Ready to Battle Over Bullet Train

      I have to believe this whole project is going to be held up in the court system for at least a decade. There’s so much opposition at the government level in so many of the Peninsula cities, that getting some sort of consensus will be a long shot at best.

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  • Thanks for the link Chuck. It’s unclear to me if Omar is actually in favor of the system or not. In the article, and elsewhere, he has spoken about the benefits of the existing elevated platform in San Carlos.

    But our situation with the elevated platform really doesn’t address the two huge concerns with this project: 1) the very sketchy financial plan and 2) all the associated noise pollution from the speed/frequency of trains whizzing by. It doesn’t make much sense to overlook those critical issues just because we already have an elevated platform that would require less work than other peninusla cities.

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