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Calif. agency reveals likely bullet train routes

(The following article by Michael Cabanatuan was posted on the San Francisco Chronicle website on November 11.)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California's High-Speed Rail Authority released a tentative map Wednesday for the proposed but unfunded San Francisco-to-Los Angeles bullet train that temporarily lacks a link between the Bay Area and the Central Valley and chooses to use the median of Interstate 880 to get from Union City to San Jose.

The authority decided in September -- after much controversy -- to postpone a decision on how to take the train from the Central Valley to the Bay Area until further studies comparing alignments near Pacheco Pass and Altamont Pass can be done, probably next year.

The 700-mile high-speed rail system would zip passengers from the Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles' Union Station in two-and-a-half hours, planners say. It would cost $35 billion to build and could carry as many as 68 million passengers a year by 2020. A bond measure to fund construction of the tracks linking San Francisco and Los Angeles via the San Joaquin Valley will appear on the November 2006 ballot. If it passes, construction could begin by 2008.

In the Bay Area, the authority unveiled routes to San Jose from Oakland and San Francisco and recommended some station locations.

From San Francisco's Transbay Terminal -- chosen over a Fourth and King streets station -- the trains would share the Caltrain right-of-way all the way to the South Bay. They would stop en route at the BART/Caltrain Millbrae station near San Francisco International Airport, and possibly at either Redwood City or Palo Alto, though the authority has not decided whether a mid- Peninsula station should be built, or in which city. The authority decided against a Santa Clara station.

In the East Bay, planners are considering both the 12th Street/City Center BART station and West Oakland station as end-of-the-line stations. Trains would head south on an existing freight railroad along I-880 to Union City. There they would head into the 880 median on elevated tracks to San Jose's Diridon Station. Along the way, it would stop at the Oakland Coliseum BART station, where an automated shuttle to Oakland International Airport is planned, and Union City BART station.

The I-880 alignment was selected over the Mulford line, a more circuitous route that current passenger trains travel. The Mulford line has tighter turns that would slow trains, and also passes close to the bay through Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Preserve.

Outside of the Bay Area, the biggest news in the alignment is a 120-mile nonstop stretch between Fresno and Bakersfield. Stations in the Central Valley are also planned in downtown Sacramento, downtown Stockton, the Amtrak station in eastern Modesto, Castle Air Force Base outside of Merced, downtown Fresno and downtown Bakersfield.

Southern California alignments and station locations were unveiled in September. The authority is scheduled to make its alignment decisions final in December.

Friday, November 12, 2004

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