High Speed Rail Authority picks SF to SJ, Silicon Valley to Central Valley route

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- After almost 10 years of studying costs, community concerns and environmental impacts, the two Northern California routes of the state's high-speed rail have been picked.

Boris Lipkin is the Northern California Regional Director of the California High Speed Rail Authority.

He says there were two options for the San Francisco to San Jose line. The option they chose uses the existing Caltrain corridor, which is already being electrified.

"The real differentiating factors were the locations of a light maintenance facility for high-speed rail. Either on the east or west side of the tracks in Brisbane. As well as, whether a passing track would be a need or not in the middle of San Mateo and Redwood City," says Lipkin.

Their option is for the facility on the east side of tracks, and no passing lane.

Going from San Jose to Merced is more complicated because it's a large piece of the system with greater environmental impacts, says Lipkin.

Of the four viable options, once again, their decision incorporates using existing Caltrain, and this time, Union Pacific rail lines.

Impact on surrounding cities was also a concern, such as, "buying new land for a rail corridor, as well as noise and other things we heard from communities around issues that they care about," explains Lipkin.

Transportation analyst Dr. Karen Philbrick with the Mineta Transportation Institute, says she supports the two proposed routes. She says using existing tracks means reduced capital costs, but there could be obstacles.

"The challenges are, you have to have very close collaboration in terms of operation and maintenance, and that can sometimes prove difficult," says Dr. Philbrick.

Whether the full high-speed line is built is based on getting the billions in funding, explains Lipkin. "From San Francisco, through the Pacheco Pass, to get to the Central Valley (will cost) about $15 billion dollars."

But he adds, the work continues nonetheless.

The California High Speed Rail Authority will now hold a series of community meetings in July followed by several open houses in August to solicit public input.

The Board of Directors will vote in September. If approved, they move onto the environmental review.

If fully built, the high-speed system is supposed to link San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The 51-mile San Francisco to San Jose line will go from San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center to the Diridon Station in San Jose. The estimated 84-mile San Jose to Merced portion will link Silicon Valley to the Central Valley, via Gilroy.

"(Silicon Valley is) the seat of economic power and we need to connect that with other communities," says Dr. Philbrick.

High-Speed Rail August Meetings:

August 6: Adrian Wilcox High School, 3250 Monroe Street, Santa Clara

August 8: IFDES Lodge-Portuguese Hall, 250 Old Gilroy Street, Gilroy

August 12: Bay Area Metro Center, Yerba Buena Room, 375 Beale Street, San Francisco

August 15: City Hall, Council Chambers, 200 E Santa Clara Street, San Jose

August 19: Sequoia High School, 1201 Brewster Ave., Redwood City

August 21: Los Banos Community Center, 645 7th Street, Los Banos
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