Article an Jose Mercury News Article February 25th 2009

Major high-speed rail dilemma discovered in San Carlos

By Mike Rosenberg
Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 02/25/2009 01:29:49 AM PST

New tracks in San Carlos for the state’s proposed bullet train could bar high-profile vehicles from a key route to and from Highway 101, city engineers have discovered.  In the latest of several concerns Peninsula officials have raised about the new high-speed rail line, San Carlos officials sent the state a letter Monday in which they explain how Holly Street would be negatively affected by the project.

Two tracks for the bullet train would be built parallel to the existing Caltrain tracks that run through San Carlos east of El Camino Real. The existing tracks cross Holly Street via a grade separation — where they are elevated above the U-shaped roadway. The rail bridge would need to be widened to accommodate the additional tracks, which would lower the vertical clearance of the street below, said Robert Weil, the city’s public works director.  Fifteen feet of vertical clearance is needed underneath the bridge; the clearance is currently 15 feet and three inches.  It appears the new tracks and wider bridge would reduce the clearance to less than 15 feet, Weil said.  “So something has to give,” he said. “Either Holly Street has to be re-lowered or the whole rail structure has to be raised. Otherwise a tall truck would run right into the bottom of the bridge.”
Lowering Holly may not be possible because the street may not comply with roadway design standards, Weil said.  The California High Speed Rail Authority is accepting comments through April 6 before it begins planning the San Francisco-to-San Jose portion of the high-speed rail line, which is expected to whisk passengers from the Bay Area to Southern California in 2½ hours.
In their letter, San Carlos officials urged the rail authority to address the engineering conflict in detail and to determine the impacts of raising the bridge.  Rail authority officials on Monday told the San Carlos City Council that it may be possible to raise the bridge, said Assistant City Manger Brian Moura.  It isn’t clear yet what sort of legal action the city could take to resolve the issue if the rail authority fails to develop a solution, Weil said.  The rail authority only recently learned of the issue, said Deputy Director Dan Leavitt.  “There may be some adjustments to the road profile, that’s something we’ll look at,” Leavitt said. “We’ll certainly try to minimize any sort of impacts we can on existing facilities.”

San Carlos’ letter included roughly a dozen comments on the proposed bullet train. The authors called for a visual impact study, a noise volume analysis and raised concerns about potential increases in vibration. The letter did not mention other potential conflicts with the city’s other grade separation, over Brittan Avenue.
A group representing the neighborhood near the tracks, Greater East San Carlos, will also submit a letter to the state, said President Ben Fuller. It cites eight concerns, including the need for long-term parking and increased landscaping around the tracks.
San Carlos is the latest of several Peninsula cities to question the bullet train project. It recently came under fire in Palo Alto and other towns that have been meeting to discuss forming a consortium to better negotiate with the rail authority.

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