Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board
1250 San Carlos Avenue
San Carlos, California 94070
Caltrain Electrification Draft Environmental Impact Report Comments
Dear Chairperson McLemore:
On behalf of the Mountain View City Council, I am writing to provide
the following comments on the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR)
for the proposed Caltrain electrification project. These comments address
the EIR and do not constitute a position on the project or its importance
in context to other planned projects along the Caltrain line.
Mountain View and other communities along the Caltrain corridor are
in the process of planning grade-separated crossings which provide improved
railroad and vehicle roadway safety, decreased traffic congestion, and
increased efficiency of the railroad and roadway. Construction of the
grade separations after electrification will result in a significant
loss in the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB) investment
in this project as large portions of the overhead contact system will
need to be removed and reconstructed as grade separations are built.
This also has the secondary effect of increasing the cost of grade separation
projects. Considering the importance of grade separations and the cost
implications of building an electrified system before these projects
are complete, the EIR should include a discussion of this issue, and
the PCJPB should consider the importance of grade separations and other
critical system improvements when establishing project priorities.
Connection to High Speed Rail
The EIR states electrification of the system will "set the stage"
for the California High Speed Rail (HSR) project as HSR will use electric
train technology. However, if constructed, the HSR project will require
all current at-grade crossings to be grade separated and a four-track
alignment of the entire Caltrain Corridor. Considering the electrification
project (as described in the EIR) does not call for grade separations
or four-tracking of the line, the EIR should de-emphasize the connection
to the HSR project.
Distribution Station Siting
Another concern is the proposed siting of a power distribution station,
or paralleling station, in Mountain View. The EIR proposes to locate
the paralleling station on the soon-to-be-constructed efficiency studio
site. Caltrain staff has been alerted to the matter and are aware an
alternate location for the paralleling station will need to be identified.
Impacts of the Overhead Contact System
We believe the installation of an overhead contact system (OCS) will
cause significant visual blight throughout the Caltrain corridor. The
ETR identifies the visual impacts of the OCS as less than significant;
however, residents and businesses along the corridor may disagree with
this finding. Considering the visual impacts of the OCS cannot be avoided,
the EIR should identify this impact as an unavoidable significant impact.
This is especially true considering trees, which currently screen homes
and businesses from the railroad, will need to be removed in certain
locations to allow for safe placement of the OCS system.
Production and Capacity
Sufficient energy production and transmission capability has been an
issue in California for several years. The EIR states energy production
will be sufficient to support operation of an electrified Caltrain system.
However, the EIR should provide data to substantiate this claim and
should include a discussion about potential impacts if sufficient power
generation or transmission capacity cannot meet the needs of the system.
Complaints received by City residents about Caltrain typically involve
wheel squeal, vibrations; train horns and whistles-not diesel engine
noise. Although train horns and vibrations are identified in the document,
the EIR does not identify wheel squeal as an impact or suggest possible
mitigation measures for any of these noise generators. We suggest including
a discussion of this item in the EIR.
Another issue of note is the range of alternatives, specifically the
omission of the clean diesel engine alternative. Considering the cost
of electrification, clean diesel engines should be considered if funding
is not secured or is delayed. Clean diesel engines could be purchased
as older diesel locomotives need replacement or overhaul, acting as
an interim measure to address air quality issues.
Schedule and Impacts
The EIR should recommend implementation of all mitigation measures to
reduce the impacts of construction noise and vibrations. Temporary relocation
of residents most impacted by noise (to hotels or apartments) should
also be considered.
It is unclear if the EMU scenario incorporates possible cost increases
which may arise as a result of manufacturing specialized units to meet
U.S. standards. The EIR should include a discussion of additional costs
which may arise if this option is considered.
A key component of the Transbay Terminal project is to extend Caltrain
from the Fourth and King Street station to the planned Transbay Terminal
building. However, for this project to be successful, electrification
of Caltrain would be required or dual mode diesel engines would need
to be used. The EIR does not include a discussion of these facts and,
considering the direct connection the Transbay Terminal project has
to electrification, a discussion on this topic should be included in
the final EIR.
you for providing us with the opportunity to comment on this document,
and we sincerely hope you will address these issues in the final EIR.
If you or any of your staff have questions, please feel free to contact
Peter Skinner, Senior Administrative Analyst, at (650) 903-6311.