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May 18, 2004

Councilmember John Mclemore-Chairperson
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.

Grade Separations
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.

Power 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. .

Visual 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.

Energy 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.

Noise
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.

Range of Alternatives
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.

Construction 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.

Electric Multiple Units
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.

Transbay Terminal Project
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.

Thank 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.

Sincerely,

Matt Pear
Mayor



                     
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