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October 08, 2015



Great turnout, but if you looked closely, several attendees were from HSR and Rail-related industries (contractors, developers, engineers) looking for contacts (and contracts). Though this group of presenters seemed more sincere, the answers were as vague as ever. Costs continue to dog the project, though you'd never guess it, judging from their carefully chosen words. Cities along the SF Peninsula should be particularly concerned about future costs (i.e.. grade seps) that are going to land in municipalities' laps. This reminds me of the berm discussions from years ago--if a city wants something else, it's on them. And last, but not least, they had no good answer for the "gate down" problems, particularly with regard to emergency vehicles. It sure sounds as if we'd better start saving money for a fire station on the eastside-- that, or a helipad and permanently stationed emergency vehicles (?!). 'Guess this topic needs to go into the discussions of the General Plan revision....

And, for a bit of wit, I'm reminded of this classic Onion piece https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNixDlRoMvA


Contrary to the recent HSR reports of having garnered the interest of dozens of private investors...this video of Agenda Item 3 of the October 6th HSR Board of Directors' meeting is quite revealing:


The unions will soon be pressuring local pols to support this with the their same old panacea-job creation! Once SEIU, teamsters, foreign gov'ts, etc., start their campaign in support of HSR, several peninsula pols will submit to their demands. Preventing this boondoggle must be won in the courts.


Elevate the tracks. It's the safest and quietest way. There should be no pedestrian/vehicle interaction with the train. There's been six train/car accidents in the last six weeks, at least two in Burlingame including one last night.



Fred - Elevating the train is just another way to destroy our community. They have no business running 110 mph trains through such a tight corridor.

John Baker

I agree -- there's no way there should be a train there NOW without "grade separations," much less a high-speed line in the future. Look at Belmont and San Carlos for examples of where they did it right, without, as Fred wrote, "destroying the town." (And maybe don't look at San Bruno's concrete monstrosity.)


Living on the East side near Peninsula, we are double impacted by this erroneous waste of money and San Mateo's drive to add on/off ramps at Penn!!
I get that we need to make things as safe as can be, but at what expense???

Bruce Dickinson

Guys, I gotta tell ya, this is one train that is gonna grade-separate from planet Earth, ya know what I mean?


Two good news articles today:



T wrote "destroy our community" not myself. I think the most destructive option is leaving the train at grade. Traffic backups, lack of crossings (most likely just Broadway and Peninsula), undeniable safety concerns and continuance of the loud horns.

A berm would work in most parts of Burlingame except between North Lane (Royal Donut) and Peninsula Ave where there is currently four crossings and historically five (South Lane). That section should require some type of viaduct elevation to keep the town from being divided.

Bruce Dickinson

Folks, Bruce Dickinson see little positive news in any of this other that HSR has a better public relations face and accommodating language. Unless someone has the ability to poop out another $90 billion dollars, it's gonna be done on the cheap. I'm no construction expert, but I gotta tell ya, at grade or above grade is cheaper than trenched or tunneled.

Also, anyone thinking that Burlingame is going to spend its own money to bring this below grade is kidding themselves. Once California's most expensive Rec center and a new City Hall get built, there will be no money left, large unfunded pension liabilities and no amount of development will save Burlingame in the next recession when all the money is gone. Trust me, Bruce Dickinson has had my guys look at the price tags for some of this stuff, and even using general obligation bonds, it's gonna strain Burlingame's ability to withstand another downturn. We need to save that money to take the lead of our smarter south bay cities and sue HSR and if that doesn't work, pay for below grade.

I would be remiss if I didn't say if we have a council that does not critically tackle difficult issues and rubber stamps everything, they will turn Burlingame into AirBnb, RailBnb, BusBnb, etc, namely everything will be for rent. All the more reason to elect candidates that know finance and are not willing to allow strangers to defile their "beds", ya know what I mean?

Thomas Hornblower

Bruce Dickinson, I'm confused. It sounds like you're against the building of "California's most expensive Rec center" (I know I am) and you're asking us to "elect candidates that know finance and are not willing to allow strangers to defile their "beds", ya know what I mean?" and yet on a previous thread you have endorsed Donna Colson, who is all for building "California's most expensive Rec center". Why are you endorsing Donna If you're against the new Rec center?

Bruce Dickinson

Guys, look at the big picture, nothing to be confused about. If Bruce Dickinson believed this election was only about the Rec Center, then yes, I shouldn't endorse Colson. When do you think that there is 100% overlap with any one person's philosophy and an election candidate? You are dealt a hand, so you play that hand the best you can. I will endorse the person who can deal with the multitude of issues effectively and can enhance the governing body to make it stronger. Plus, I believe a reasonable person can be heavily persuaded when the right evidence is presented in front of them. But maybe not, I don't know. But on average, Bruce Dickinson believes the right decisions should be arrived for a majority of the issues where community wishes are respected. Most are in favor of the new rec center, I am not, in its current form due to cost. Does this mean I exclude a candidate just because of one issue I disagree on? Does this mean that I cannot budge if the Rec center gets built, but in exchange a new City Hall doesn't? I may be in favor of that compromise.

Don't understand why this would be a confusing concept in a democracy with limited candidates? To use an analogy, do you honk your horn going down the freeway everytime a car is in front of you, or do you selectively deal with the problem car that is really not doing something correctly and needs to be alerted? Flexibility and willingness to compromise and horse-trade for certain issues, is key, my friend. Trust me, you don't get too far if you're blaring on your horn all the time just taking a singular view on a singular issue, ya know what I mean?

Thomas Hornblower

Bruce Dickinson, thanks so much for your clarification.

Ottawa Braves

Dear Fred, many years ago on Horgans column about Brothers Deli in San Mateo you said it was on North San Mateo Drive. That is incorrect. It was on SOUTH San Mateo Drive and the corner of Third Ave. North San Mateo Drive begins at Baldwin Ave and goes in a Northerly Direction. South San Mateo Drive begins at Baldwin Ave - south.


You are quite far off topic, Ottawa. What is your point?


Back on topic, and to Jennifer's point made elsewhere, the Times piece notes that:

At a crowded forum Wednesday evening at the Burlingame Recreation Center, the most common concern was how the authority's new approach -- a "blended" system in which Caltrain and high-speed rail share ground-level tracks -- will affect automobile traffic at the many intersections on the Peninsula where surface streets cross the rails.

Several citizens told Ben Tripousis, the authority's regional director, they are concerned that increased traffic on the 51-mile rail corridor will cause nightmarish backups at intersections with grade separations, that is, automobile tunnels or overpasses.

The authority projects there will be as many as 20 bullet and commuter trains per hour once the system is fully operational by 2029. Caltrain anticipates that more frequent service will lead to "significant and unavoidable" effects on automobile congestion at some intersections.

Tripousis said a new automated system for coordinating the movement of trains will alleviate backups, as will Caltrain's plan to electrify the rail corridor. Caltrain's new electric trains will stop and start faster than the current diesel trains, shortening the intervals when crossing arms are down.

It understates the issue to just call it "Automobile traffic" being held up since virtually all of the emergency vehicles in town start any call on the west side of the train tracks.

Christopher Bush

When I lived in New York, I really loved all of the inter city trains tracks coming through my neighborhood... because that is where I played tennis. Riverside Park is located on top of the Southbound train tracks. That is really what we need in order for the train to be workable going through the middle of our town.

I found it very ironic that Ben Tripousis said that he was not Robert Moses because it appears that Tripousis took away the wrong lessons from Moses' checkered biography. The two main problems that HSR faces are the two problems that Moses was actually good at solving: 1. Grandiose and aesthetically pleasing parks blended with infrastructure improvements and 2. getting the money to pay for it. While I disagree with many of Moses' projects, he got rails through the city right.

When the HSR brings a nuisance to our neighborhood, they are liable for mitigating the damages. Saying that the local governments are responsible for funding the grade separations is not a workable solution. Advice, coordination, and support are insufficient. While they claim that the electrification of Caltrain is the benefit, we are only getting an extra half train an hour out of the bargain- they are consuming the vast majority of the additional capacity that this creates. Until they have funding to create a park on top of the rail tracks they need to look for a new route for the train.

While some may accuse us of being NIMBY, this is really a case of "Not through the middle of my house." I think that almost everyone would be fine if they put the HSR along the 280 or along the 101. We have already offered our backyard. The argument that they need to go through the middle of our towns is spurious because they don't plan on stopping here.

In addition, the idea that we would become a train quiet zone is based on the assumption that our city will assume the liability creating a quite zone. Given that there have been three cars hit by Caltrain in Burlingame during the last couple weeks, I don't think that the city is going to go for it. That is what blocked the city from becoming a quite zone several years ago... not the cost of installing quad-gates.

I love travel by rail, but the devil is in the details and the current HSR plans do not make sense. I think that increasing the frequency of Caltrains would do a lot more for the environment than the HSR.


Excellent points, sir. I see no need to edit or delete!


From the SacBee's Dan Walters' column:

One of the chores the Legislature left undone when it adjourned was spending billions of dollars from auctioning carbon dioxide emission credits.

There’s no shortage of suggestions on how to spend the “cap-and-trade” money, but state law says it’s supposed to be spent on reducing carbon emissions and thus combating climate change.

Gov. Jerry Brown already has a big chunk of the money – $250 million a year and growing – to spend on his pet bullet train project on the assertion that it will make a big dent in tailpipe carbon emissions.

However, the Legislature’s budget adviser, Mac Taylor, has opined that the bullet train will have negligible impact on emissions by a 2020 deadline, and its construction may actually increase them.

The High-Speed Rail Authority’s own projections, meanwhile, tell us that even when fully operational circa 2040 – if it’s ever built, of course – its impact on auto traffic would be infinitesimal.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/dan-walters/article38765793.html#emlnl=Morning_Newsletter#storylink=cpy


Tony W wrote "N. San Mateo" not myself.


From today's Daily Journal:

My congratulations to Ms. Weigel for an excellent job of summarizing the high-speed rail meeting in Burlingame Wednesday night (“High-speed rail back on track?” in the Oct. 9 edition of the Daily Journal).

That was one of the most tedious meetings I have ever attended. The information provided was incomplete and the answers to the audience’s questions evasive.

Apparently Peninsula residents are supposed to feel good about the erosion of the quality of life in their communities and the value of their property with the roar of up to 20 trains per hour at up to 110 mph simply because they are electrified, or eventually running on “split grade” tracks on their non-stop route to Merced. Not sure why anyone needs to go to Merced at 110 mph, but I understand one will be able to leave there at up to 190 mph for Los Angeles. That might be good but for my money, if I am traveling 190 mph, I would prefer it to be in something with wings.

The bottom line is that there are no known benefits to Peninsula residents of this outrageous plan other than the privilege of helping pay for it.

Where are our politicians who are supposed to be representing our interests? Please stop this insanity.

D. Jonson
Great question, Mr. or Ms. Jonson!


If you look at what they're building in San Francisco - the Transbay Terminal, it doesn't take much to realize they're going to build out high speed rail down the peninsula. I understand the fight to stop it, but it's a losing battle and the focus should be on what's the best way to have the trains travel through the towns. Trenching would be ideal but they will put the costs on the cities and they can't afford it. Grade separation is something both the transit agencies and the cities ideally want. The cities can get the transit agencies and the state to pay for an elevated system. Better now than later when the cities might have to contribute to doing what should have been done in the first place.


Dear Ms. or Mr. D. Jonson, you are absolutely correct with your observations, and I agree that the DJ reporter did a fabulous job on her work. If you read this L.A. Times link, it is very clear that there is little to no genuine interest in private sector funding of this "project", thus far. So the question is, how long can this colossal pyramid scheme and charade continue?--Did anyone count how many paid suits were present (for at least 3 hours) on the 7th? This is roadshow featuring snake oil- and yes, to the poster who mentioned Unions loving it, you betcha! When will taxpayer subsidies have to come into play, as they do all over the world with HSR to some extent. We can only hope the plug is pulled long before the entire S.F. Peninsula is ruined in one way, or another.

pat giorni

The Tos et al lawsuit which aims to eliminate the $9Billion Bond measure will be heard in Sacto on Feb 17 and will leave the Transbay Terminal the world's most expensive bus station if we are granted judicial relief.

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