News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 08/10/2010
Subject :

City to Discuss High Speed Rail Alternatives on August 24 and September 13
City Also Plans to Conduct Rail Corridor Study
Contact : Steve Emslie, Deputy City Manager    650-329-2354
Rob Braulik, Project Manager    650-329-2512

Palo Alto, CA – The Palo Alto High Speed City Council Committee will discuss the California High Speed Rail Authority's (CHSRA) Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report (SAAR) on August 24, and the full City Council is scheduled to discuss the SAAR, as well as Palo Alto’s preferences, at its September 13 meeting. According to the City staff, there are still many unresolved issues. These issues include, but are not limited to, High Speed Rail (HSR) ridership numbers and funding that will have significant impacts on the kind, type, and schedule for construction of an HSR system; the Caltrain electrification project and funding; CHSRA consideration of a potential HSR mid-peninsula rail station including Palo Alto and the associated impacts; and the continued consideration by CHSRA of aerial and at-grade 4-track options.

"The City of Palo Alto continues to believe that there remain several outstanding issues associated with HSR along the Caltrain corridor," said Steve Emslie, Deputy City Manager. “Many aspects of the project could have a significant impact on Palo Alto residents and businesses, such as the phasing and constructing of this project, the interoperability of Caltrain and the HSR, and the continued consideration by the California High Speed Rail Authority of the aerial and at-grade options for the 4-tracks. It is important for the CHSRA to understand and mitigate these impacts as much as possible.”

The CHSRA held its latest meeting on August 5 in San Francisco. According to City officials who attended the meeting, CHSRA acknowledged during the session that in most cases peninsula cities located along the existing Caltrain rail corridor prefer that the below grade  option be constructed in their communities. This option offers the ability to potentially minimize and mitigate adverse impacts such as train noise, visual and other impacts on property values.

CHSRA staff presented its findings on the Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report (SAAR)   for the San Francisco to San Jose corridor and concluded their presentation to the authority by stating they believe they are getting closer to resolving the issues between what is desired, what is feasible, what is achievable and developing an optimal solution for an HSR line along the Peninsula. To find the report online, visit the CHSRA website at and click on the “Agenda Items” link for the August 5 meeting.

For more information and to stay up-to-date on the City’s efforts, visit the Palo Alto HSR website at


Additional Information
Palo Alto City staff has summarized some key findings of the SAAR report and from the CAHSR staff presentation on August 5 about the report to include the following: 

  • Track options under consideration have been narrowed to 3. CHSRA, which studied several potential train options under the original Alternative Analysis (AA), has now narrowed the options under consideration to three. The options all include a 4-track configuration:
    • 1. Aerial 4-track – a rail line that is on an elevated structure above an existing railroad grade
    • 2. At-grade 4-track  – a rail line at the same level as an existing roadway/railroad grade
    • 3. Trench 4-track  – an open trench and sunken passageway below existing roadway/railroad grade
      Furthermore, CHSRA staff stressed all three 4-track options remain on the table for review and consideration until further analysis is done.  
  • Track right of way width now estimated at 80-82 feet. According to Robert “Bob” Doty, Peninsula Rail Program Director, “These new track options enable CHSRA to come up with a narrower right-of-way width of between 80 – 82 feet versus upwards of 130’ under the original AA.” Doty further indicates that “...this configuration offers significant advantages in minimizing property impacts, improves interoperability of train operations and enables the rail authority to construct the infrastructure for High Speed Rail (HSR) and keep Caltrain commuter rail trains operating at the same time.”
  • Engineering design of 3 options will move forward. CHSRA staff will move forward and complete engineering design work based on the three options. They will produce engineering drawings and specifications at a 15% design phase and do additional costing of the 3 options.
  • Midpeninsula Station options to be discussed in September 2010. There are also planned but not yet scheduled Mid-Peninsula station discussions the last three weeks of September. More information will follow upon receipt of dates from CHSRA.
  • Environmental impact documents to be released by December 2010. The draft project environmental impact report (EIR) required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required under the National    Environmental Policy Act are still planned for publication by December 2010.
  • Project costing numbers not known until February 2011. Detailed cost numbers will not be known until a new business plan is presented to the CHSRA Board early next year.  Preliminary cost figures for the Palo Alto section are provided in Section 6 of the SAAR.
  • Construction phasing is unknown at this time. Most likely once the environmental work is completed and CHSRA knows what funding is available they will implement an HSR construction phasing program along the San Francisco to San Jose corridor. CHSRA staff presented various options for this. (See SAAR for more information.)