The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s vision for the corridor between San Jose and San Francisco appears to have the support of Bay Area residents.

In June, high-speed rail staff officially announced its preference for what’s known as Alternative A, one of two options for the corridor that does not include passing tracks and places a 100-acre maintenance facility in Brisbane on the east side of the tracks. Ensuing outreach efforts suggest residents along the corridor are largely on board with that plan. 

“At meetings in San Francisco and Santa Clara, we have been hearing that Alternative A is the preferred alternative,” said James Tung, a project manager with the High-Speed Rail Authority. Another meeting was held in Redwood City Monday, Aug. 19. “Offhand, Alternative A is a lot more popular. 

The other option is Alternative B, which includes six miles of passing tracks between San Mateo and Redwood City and places the Brisbane maintenance facility on the west side of the tracks, closer to existing and planned residential development. 

Beyond passing tracks and the location of the maintenance facility, the other main differences between the two options is service would be a couple of minutes faster under Alternative B, which also costs $1 billion more than Alternative A, Tung said. Another benefit of passing tracks is to limit delays in the event of an incident on the tracks because they offer a backup path for trains.

While passing tracks on the Peninsula mean slightly faster travel times for high-speed rail, they would also result in equally slower travel times for Caltrain trains between San Jose and San Francisco.

The High-Speed Rail Authority in September will select one of the two alternatives, though both will be studied during the environmental review phase. After environmental review is complete, then the final routing decision will be made. 

HSR staff chose Alternative A because it will have the fewest impacts on the surrounding communities, Tung said.

During the Monday meeting, high-speed rail officials stressed that the project is indeed still happening. Over 119 miles are under construction and over $5 billion has been invested in the project.

Gov. Gavin Newsom created a stir in February when he said the focus needed to shift from connecting it from the Central Valley to the Bay Area to a north and south section between Bakersfield and Merced before connecting to the west. Work is continuing on plans outside of that focus area.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has worked on establishing a bullet train service between Los Angeles and San Francisco since voters approved a $10 billion bond more than 10 years ago. While estimates for the project have varied, recent reports have it projected to cost approximately $77 billion with a 2033 completion date. 

In the Bay Area, four high-speed rail trains per peak hour in each direction will travel along the existing Caltrain tracks at speeds up to 110 mph. Caltrain will also run six trains per peak hour per direction.

The draft environmental impact report for the project will be released in March of 2020 and the final EIR will be complete by March 2021.

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