Time moves on and it has become obvious that the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the High-Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain is no longer viable.
Since the two systems agreed to the MOU, circumstances and conditions have changed dramatically. Back then, in exchange for Caltrain allowing the high-speed rail project to use Caltrain’s right-of-way, the rail authority was to fund and construct its own dedicated tracks. In exchange for access to this right-of-way, the authority was going to fund the electrification of Caltrain’s existing separate tracks. All the tracks would have all road crossings grade-separated, and this funding would also come from Proposition 1A bond funds.
With the huge cost escalation of the high-speed rail project, a new plan was conceived. No longer would Caltrain and the high-speed rail run on separate tracks. Rather, they would share a two-track roadbed — an idea dubbed the” blended plan.”
Funds for grade-separating the road crossings now are no longer available. The latest plan shows Caltrain would run six trains in each direction at peak times, and high-speed rail, four trains in each direction. Thus during peak travel times, a total of 20 times each hour, the crossing gates would come down. The gridlock and congestion to our cities thus produced is simply not acceptable.
Adding on to this is the major upsurge in passenger traffic on Caltrain. It is obvious that in the near future, six trains per hour in each direction for Caltrain will not be sufficient.
The Peninsula communities have been unanimous that four tracks along the Peninsula corridor are simply not acceptable. The blended plan is simply not adequate so long as high-speed rail is allowed on the corridor.
It is time for the Peninsula communities to step up and demand that Caltrain dissolve its alliance with the High- Speed Rail Authority. Caltrain will need the full passenger carrying capacity provided by the two-track “blended system” for its own use.
Yes, this will mean the loss of around $600 million that the high-speed rail project was going to provide to Caltrain for its electrification project. New sources for this funding must simply be found elsewhere.
Morris Brown is a longtime resident of Stone Pine Lane in Menlo Park.
(This opinion piece was published in the Oct 21, 2015, print edition of the Almanac.)