Tomorrow, Tuesday May 17, the High Speed Rail Authority is holding an an open house on May 17 in at Berryessa Community Center, 5 to 8 pm, about the High Speed Rail approach to San Jose.
At the last meetings in April, the High Speed Rail Authority re-started planning for the approach to Diridon. In its prior planning in 2010, HSR was leaning toward an elevated approach, but the most recent business plan switches the design an at-grade approach through the Gardner neighborhood, with a third, non-electrified track to serve freight from Diridon to past Tamien. At the April meetings, HSR said they were still considering the elevated and underground options at Diridon, but it sounded like they were favoring the at-grade approach.
There currently are two entrances/exits to the Gardner neighborhood, which was largely cut off from the street grid with the construction of the 280 and 87 freeways (see image). There is an at-grade crossing of the tracks at West Virginia and Drake Avenue would need to be grade-separated or would need to be closed, leaving one entrance to the neighborhood. The at-grade approach would require demolishing 3-5 residential homes and a church, In addition, the tracks would take land from Fuller Park (see image). With the neighborhood’s history of being harmed by the freeways and the low-income population, the residents are raising environmental justice concerns. The previous elevated alignment would have a different set of issues.
The other major change in the new business plan is a new alternative from Tamien to Gilroy, where HSR would operate on a viaduct above the Union Pacific freight tracks parallel to Monterey Highway, because of challenges negotiating with UP about the feasibility and cost of running next to freight in a reconstructed Monterey Highway.
High Speed Rail says they will consider the issue with these changes. However, High Speed Rail is also making the case that no further environmental alternatives analysis is needed for the change to an at-grade alignment even though seem to be impacts with regard to the at-grade approach through Gardner, and potential issues Monterey Highway design. The segment from Diridon to Merced is being handled in a different environmental review segment than San Francisco to San Jose.
With regard to Diridon Station, High Speed Rail has an agreement with San Jose, VTA, Caltrain and others to develop a multi-modal station and encourage transit-oriented development in the station area. At the station, High Speed Rail discussed the potential for a common platform height with Caltrain, but having separate platforms for regular operations. The specifics are still being worked out.
Tomorrow’s meeting location is 8-10 miles away from Diridon and the Gardner neighborhood, depending on route. The High Speed Rail authority says there will be a future meeting in the Gardner neighborhood in the future, possibly in the fall, but this has not been scheduled.