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Meeting Announcement – Negative Impacts of High-Speed Rail Authority's Terminus Proposals

Passing this meeting information along … very important for Rincon Hill and South Beach residents to attend!  For myself and others living at BayCrest Towers and nearby, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is proposing a terminus located along Beale Street that would necessitate the eminent domain and demolition of our homes.  Please attend if you can – and pass the meeting information along!

Supervisor Chris Daly invites you to an important community meeting to discuss a recent proposal by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) that may have significant consequences, including demolition to many properties in the Rincon Hill area of Main and Beale Streets, as well as the South Beach areas of Second and Townsend Streets.

Meeting date: Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time: 5:30pm – 7:00pm UPDATED (hour earlier than originally posted)

Location: South Beach Harbor Services Building’s Community Room (between Pier 40 and AT&T Park – for directions, please visit http://www.southbeachharbor.com/directions_public.html)

For further details or more information about this meeting, please contact April Veneracion at 415-554-7972.

3 Responses to Meeting Announcement – Negative Impacts of High-Speed Rail Authority's Terminus Proposals

  1. Supervisor Chris Daly is throwing up FUD because the city of SF wants the HSR station at the Transbay Terminal Center, even though that was designed for AC Transit + Caltrain and is very much suboptimal for HSR. In particular, the $2.8 billion price tag for DTX tunnel + train box is extremely high.

    Under CEQA rules, CHSRA is legally obliged to evaluate a sufficiently broad range of options for station placement. To date, it has only considered 4th & King (which isn’t downtown) and the TTC. It’s not yet clear if the study of a Main/Beale option represents due diligence or a genuine desire to split the bus and rail functions into two separate but adjacent structures. The primary benefit for HSR would be fewer and much less severe curves plus a larger number of platforms.

    Any station at Main/Beale would still be reached via tunnels excavated underground (i.e. not from the surface), so fears of massive eminent domain takings are probably overblown. The station would also be underground and could be combined with residential and/or commercial real estate incl. parking structures above ground.

  2. HI Rafael,

    The CHSRA Open House several weeks (months?) ago at a State of California office building on Golden Gate Ave. had engineers, and the engineer said in no uncertain terms that my home and the home of about 400 to 500 others at BayCrest Towers would have to be demolished to make way for the “Beale Street Alternative.” I’m also uncertain what it would mean for nearby Watermark since a train wouldn’t make a sharp turn off of The Embarcadero over to Beale Street. I think the water table on the south side of Rincon Hill is awfully high to be considering subterannean tunnels, not to mention the water/pump infrastructure and the Bay Bridge itself would make any subterranean tunneling worrisome (crazy?).

    Hope you attend the meeting to learn more details!
    jamie whitaker

  3. @ Jamie –

    hmm, I guess it’s possible CHSRA isn’t trying particularly hard to make the Beale Street alternative work. They’re studying it because of a specific comment submitted to them during the public comments period for the Bay Area to Central Valley Final Program EIS/EIR – the one they just had to decertify because of problems in Atherton and with UPRR. By law, they have to respond to specific suggestions for alternatives. Perhaps they’ve already more or less resigned themselves to the subpar Transbay Terminal Center solution and are merely dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to make sure they can’t get sued under CEQA again.

    Wrt tunneling, the big advantage of the Beale Street alternative is that the curve radii are much larger than for the TTC option. That means it should be possible to use tunnel boring machines, which can handle wet soils with a pressurized bentonite shield. Whether that is appropriate in the specific geology of Rincon Hill, I can’t say – but it’s been used successfully all over the world.

    That said, tunneling engineers do have to be conservative when drilling through waterlogged rock close the surface, there’s a risk of subsidence. Buildings and other structures above grade are sometimes condemned prophylactically, because an uncontrolled collapse would not only be catastrophic for anyone inside but potentially for the tunneling crew as well. In California, tunnel construction has to be executed safely even in the event of a major earthquake, so an overabundance of caution is common. Still, I’d ask the engineer who gave you the information precisely what his reasons were. In theory, it should be possible to construct the tunnel without damaging any extant buildings. In practice, it may be too risky to try.

    The Bay bridge shouldn’t present an insurmountable problem as long as the tunnel runs well east of the Beale street anchorage. Personally, I would prefer to see CHSRA study a variation with staggered platforms directly underneath and just west of Main. Some of these would reach all the way to Embarcadero BART at Market Street. The general objective would be to bring together all of the rail services while minimizing eminent domain takings and constraints on the development of derelict parcels/parking lots.

    Meanwhile, I’ve had a separate idea that may or may not be worth looking into: instead of excavating a tunnel under buildings on dry land, why not construct a fully immersed tube in the Mission Creek Channel and around the the downtown area, to a station complex located offshore, immediately south of the Ferry Terminal and abutting Embarcadero. In this scenario, a single large platform level would be located well below sea level, surrounded on three sides by a sea wall and by the Embarcadero to the west. There are seismic safety concerns and the location is not much better than the TTC, but it would completely avoid tunneling under existing buildings (such as your own) while giving CHSRA and Caltrain a downtown station with as many platforms as they want, illuminated by sunlight and covered with a nice roof at or just above grade level, 2-3 floors up. The result would be a proper railway station, not the dank basement with tight squealing throat curves that TJPA has come up with.

    As for the meeting, I unfortunately won’t be able to make it as I will be in Europe at the time. I do hope SF ends up with an improvement over the existing DTX tunnel + TTC train box design without anyone being forced out of their home.