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Caltrain, HSR, SCTV EIR Feedback

Caltrain, HSR, SCTV EIR Feedback

The  city somehow does not have this very important EIR feedback from Clem Tillier in their EIR PDF’s.  I urge all San Carlos residents to read through this:

In section 3.1 of the DEIR, it is stated that impacts of the high-speed rail (HSR) project on the Transit Village would best be addressed in the HSR EIR process.  While that may be one possible administrative dismissal of the issue, the fact remains that as written, the Transit Village DEIR takes HSR into account only through a vague assurance that “the project developer considered the development of the HSR project to the extent that information on the HSR project was available.”

There is now significant new information available, including detailed track alignment and clearance specifications.  All the latest HSR specifications may be found in the technical memoranda at the following URL:
http://www.peninsularail.org/userfiles/file/TechMemos/
http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2010/01/prescriptive-framework.html
For reference, the corresponding Caltrain engineering standards may be found on Caltrain’s web site:
http://www.caltrain.com/engineeringstandards/index.html

Formal references for these specifications may be obtained from:
Robert Doty, Director, Peninsula Rail Program
Dominic Spaethling, Program Manager, San Francisco – San Jose High-Speed Train, Parsons Brinckerhoff
John Litzinger, Lead Engineer, HNTB Corp.

Comment No. 1: Transit Village DEIR lacks proper analysis of railroad corridor width requirements

The specifications referenced above, when compared to the drawings included in the DEIR, allow one to draw the clear and unequivocal conclusion that FOUR TRACKS WILL NOT FIT between Old County Road and the Transit Village as proposed. I call your attention to the specifications below, all of which are included in the above-referenced technical documents, which allow one to establish a lower bound on the required railroad corridor width.

HSR TM 1.1.21 section 6.1.2
– minimum distance between centerlines of adjacent tracks 15 ft
HSR TM 1.1.21 section 6.1.3
– minimum distance between track centerline and overhead contact system poles 10 ft 8 in
– width of pole footing 3 ft
HSR TM 1.1.21 section 6.1.4
– minimum walkway width (on each side of high-speed rail tracks) 3 ft
HSR TM 1.1.21 section 6.1.5
– minimum drainage structure width (on each side of the tracks) 3 ft
Note track cross section drawings C0301 and C0303 also included in TM 1.1.21.

Caltrain Design Criteria, Chapter 3, page 3-5, Figure 3-2 shows minimum clearances for the Caltrain station.
– minimum island platform width (the narrowest possible configuration for San Carlos): 26 ft
– distance from platform edge to track centerline: 5 ft 4 in

While these specified dimensions can be added in various ways depending on the yet-to-be-chosen configuration of the rail corridor, the following arrangement is the narrowest possibly achievable within these minimum specifications.  Actual width requirements are likely to be greater.  From one side of the right of way to the other, include at a minimum:
– 1′ safety fence / footings
– 3′ drainage
– 3′ walkway
– 1.5′ from walkway edge to OCS pole centerline (for pole footing)
– 10′ 8″ from OCS pole centerline to track 1
– 15′ from track 1 centerline to track 2 centerline
– 15′ from track 2 centerline to track 3 centerline
– 5’4″ from track 3 to the edge of the Caltrain platform
– 26′ across the Caltrain island platform
– 5’4″ from the edge of the Caltrain platform to the centerline of track 4
– 10′ 8″ from centerline of track 4 to OCS pole centerline
– 1.5′ from OCS pole to walkway edge
– 3′ walkway
– 3′ drainage
– 1′ safety fence / footings
————
GRAND TOTAL: 105 feet

Do note that while the Caltrain station may not be located immediately behind all the proposed buildings, the tracks will need to align with the platform(s) for several hundred feet beyond the ends of the station, which could require right-of-way widths in excess of 100 feet along the entire length of the proposed Transit Village.

Assuming the new tracks are not stacked on top of Old County Road, a railroad right-of-way with the above-referenced width would literally OVERLAP with the proposed buildings, which the DEIR shows with just 53 ft of clearance from the side of a train to the rear wall that faces the tracks.

Considering that the Transit Village buildings will additionally require emergency vehicle access behind the buildings, such a situation is clearly untenable.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, a generic illustration of the problem (showing a 105-foot rail corridor superimposed on a section of the Transit Village from the DEIR) is attached to this message, and can also be found here:
http://www.tillier.net/stuff/caltrain/san_carlos_tod_xsection.png

Comment No. 2: Noise analysis does not account for HSR project

The Transit Village DEIR, Appendix G, Noise & Vibration Assessment, states that the buildings should be set back 55 feet from the railroad tracks to achieve less-than-significant noise impact to occupied residential buildings.

The project as proposed already shows the back walls of the buildings at a distance of 53 feet from the nearest train, leaving no clearance for the additional tracks that the DEIR acknowledges will be built.  This inconsistency must be addressed.

In conclusion, I wish to reiterate that the Transit Village DEIR is deficient in its analysis of the impacts from and to the impending high-speed rail project.  The Final EIR should include:

  • A detailed analysis of railroad right-of-way width, with reference to the engineering specifications now available, including section drawings that show adequate set backs
  • A revised analysis of noise impacts that properly accounts for the high-speed rail project

The financial viability of the Transit Village relies on the developer’s ability to sell residential units at market rates.  If the project were built as proposed, the residential units would likely fall under threat of railroad right-of-way property acquisition.  The irony of this situation would be considerable, given that the land is presently owned by SamTrans and Caltrain, the very same agencies now embarking on a collaboration with the high-speed rail project.  Aside from the threat of eminent domain and future demolition, the residential units facing the tracks could be subjected to far higher noise levels at much smaller setbacks than acknowledged in the DEIR.  Regardless of whether these issues are properly addressed in the Final EIR (and they should be), these conditions would severely depress Transit Village property values, possibly driving the developer and/or residents to insolvency.

Please address these deficiencies in the Final EIR and revise the design before it’s too late.

Additionally Mr. Tillier stated in an email to me (which he allowed me to quote on this blog):

I find it astonishing and dismaying that Caltrain’s own Brian Fitzpatrick (manager, real estate & development) appears deeply involved in promoting this project; I have seen him manning the Transit Village information booth at street fairs and the farmer’s market on Laurel.  That’s a conflict of interest if I’ve ever seen one!  You might assume that he would work in the railroad’s interest, but there he is, apparently facilitating the sale of valuable right-of-way that will cost the taxpayer many times as much to re-acquire.

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