Almanac

Viewpoint - April 7, 2010

Guest opinion: Reconsider route of high-speed train

by Kenneth R. Broome

Sean Howell's March 31 article "Stop that Train" clearly presents the contrarian point of view of those who would be most adversely affected by the present plan for high-speed trains to use the existing Caltrain right of way.

What seems to be missing in this whole controversy, however, is a more thorough and complete analysis and comparison of this route with other potentially more economically feasible and environmentally acceptable alternatives.

For example it would be technically feasible and certainly more economical to route the high-speed train right of way along the Bayshore without significant impact on the wildlife. The tracks could be elevated a short distance above the marshland on precast beams supported by pilings that would not prevent the Clapper Rail from following his established routes along the waterways.

There would clearly be some detrimental effect on views of the Bay from inhabited areas but compared with the overwhelming effects of noise and vibration on neighbors along the present Caltrain right of way, this must surely be of lesser importance.

There would still be some technical challenges like crossing the entrance to the Port of Redwood City, but sunken precast concrete tunnel sections like those used for the trans-bay section of the BART System could probably be used again.

Overall, it seems to me that insufficient time and effort has been spent on selecting the best route for the high-speed rail system along the Peninsula and now is the time to correct this mistake. Rather than taking to the streets to prevent any such activity it would appear wiser to take a second look at alternative solutions that would be more acceptable to the people who might be most affected without necessarily impacting the natural environment to any appreciable extent. Such alternatives might even be more economical.

High-speed-rail technology is rapidly being deployed in places like Europe, China and Japan. Have the protagonists of such projects in the United States become so hasty in the promotional stages of projects and insensitive to the reactions of those likely to be most affected that they "press on regardless" of the consequences? Or should they step back and do a better job of planning and optimization before it is too late?

Kenneth R. Broome lives on Rocky Creek Road in Woodside.

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