And did you know these facts?
• Already Caltrain's electrification program has gone from $800 million in cost to nearly $3 billion!
• Modern Tier 4 diesel will not require condemnation of property or the removal of thousands of trees and other vegetation.
• Modern diesel will not involve ugly, 45-foot catenary towers and wires making the Peninsula look like an ugly, denuded (no vegetation), industrialized slum, devoid of the beauty it now possesses.
• Modern Tier 4 diesel could be implemented immediately, whereas electrification will take many years of disruption and construction headaches.
• Modern Tier 4 diesel would cost 20 percent of what Caltrain says electrification will cost.
Do the voters on the Peninsula realize that Caltrain, vastly overstretched and poorly managed, is about to go on a big campaign to enact a permanent tax imposed on all of us to finance its ill-conceived plans for HSR and Caltrain electrification, when modern Tier 4 diesel would make that unnecessary?
Caltrain has waged a 15-year campaign to completely suppress all discussions of the modern diesel alternative, pretending that electrification is the only way to go; and no wonder, since its little partner, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, is telling Caltrain to do exactly that and is giving it hundreds of millions of dollars to do HSR's bidding.
The plans for Caltrain electrification are a disaster, indicative of the wholly incompetent management of Caltrain. Caltrain seeks to develop a "signaling" system that will automatically raise the crossing gates as an electric train approaches the intersection. And who have the geniuses at Caltrain hired to do this? A company called Balfour-Beatty, which has been working on a signaling system in Denver for an electrical train system with 15 intersections. The company has been working on that system for almost two years, and concedes that it will not work (state and federal regulators agree) and, as a result, in Denver they have had to have individual flag-persons working 24:7 to make the trains work and avoid collisions (back to 19th century technology!). Knowing this, Caltrain hires Balfour anyway! What a scandal.
HSR is planned to come up the Peninsula. The number of trains crossing 52 intersections (going northbound and southbound) will be 20 per hour. The crossing guards will have to come down every three minutes! Right now, they come down every six minutes at most. Three minutes will paralyze the Peninisula (almost all intersections are at grade), inhibiting getting to and from work, school, shopping, and to the hospital, and adding to the intolerable gridlock that now exists in the lower Peninsula, from San Carlos to Mountain View.
And there is even a third disaster. To avoid collisions between trains, Caltrain for more than six years has spent tens of millions of dollars on a system called CBOSS, or positive train control (PTC). Caltrain recently fired the contractor on that project because it could not make the system work, and now must start over from scratch. How encouraging for the future. Great management, Caltrain!
Peninsula residents have no clue as to the financial and aesthetic disasters awaiting them. Is getting to the Museum of Modern Art four minutes faster on an electric train worth all this? Could the billions for electric trains, versus a system costing 25 percent as much (modern Tier 4 diesel), be used for more high-priority projects? Of course. But there is no discussion of these matters as we tear down the course of permanent and irretrievable destruction.
Wake up, Peninsula residents! Do something before it is too late.
Michael Brady is a longtime Menlo Park resident. He practices law in Redwood City.
This story contains 697 words.
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