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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Berms Still Appear Possible on Caltrain Route

As residents and property owners in San Mateo and Burlingame cast their eyes on a Caltrain plan to electrify its Peninsula route, with considerable financial help from monies earmarked for high-speed rail, there is a certain sense of guarded relief prevailing right now. One reason is that there is now serious pressure being exerted to maintain the commute rail right-of-way as a two-track setup, for the most part. That would seem to satisfy many critics who fear that a four-track system to handle both Caltrain and high-speed rail, and an attendant viaduct, would devastate portions of the Peninsula. The so-called "blended" approach for the two systems, sharing two tracks, seemingly would alleviate those worries. But will that be the eventual reality? Maybe not. If you take a good look at towns like San Mateo and Burlingame, it becomes obvious that an electrified, two-track Caltrain corridor, shared with high-speed trains, would require grade separations (underpasses and berms) at many key points. For instance, from the San Mateo Caltrain depot south to Ninth Avenue there are four rail crossings. And, from the Broadway Burlingame depot south to Peninsula Avenue there are six more such crossings. Something will have to give. Keeping all of this trackage at current grade level seems to be highly unlikely. The obvious solution would be berms, similar to what exists now in Belmont and San Carlos. They aren't pretty but they're effective. The huge Hillsdale underpass is another type of option. Construction engineers are being tasked with dealing with the alternatives right now. Their recommendations probably won't be entirely satisfactory..

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