More detail: Routes to be dropped, 75 foot high viaducts, and budget woes

This follows-up my last post. Alhambra city staff will present an update to the Alhambra City Council and residents during the next city council meeting on Monday at 7pm. Staff will tell us that it recently learned that the Rail Authority will continue to study routes along the I-10 and SR-60 freeways. Rail Authority staff will also recommend that it drop the two routes that use and are adjacent to the Union Pacific right of way. City staff will also inform us that the high speed trains will fly by on elevated structures that average 75 feet or more in the air and at times are over 100 feet above the ground. Representatives from the Rail Authority will not be in attendance. The city has been asked to send a letter of formal support or opposition to present the Rail Authority board at the March 3 meeting.

In addition, I learned today that the Rail Authority likely will put further study of the L.A. to San Diego line on hold until funding becomes available. The state budget does not include funding for further design work, supplemental alternatives analysis, or the EIR/EIS process. In addition, folks in El Monte need to know that an El Monte high speed rail station likely will force the use of eminent domain and destruction of homes near the current El Monte station.

COG Meeting

The Rail Authority met with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (COG) High Speed Rail Working Group on January 13, 2011. Below is a memo that summarizes the meeting. It highlights a timeline of events to come and decisions by Rail Authority staff (in reality, contractors) about what they will recommend to its board in the preliminary alternatives analysis report that will be presented on March 3.

Highlights (my notes follow each):

  • Staff/contractors will recommend the Rail Authority continue studying the routes along the I-10 freeway and SR-60 during the EIR/EIS process.
    • The City of Alhambra web site makes it appear as if the SR-60 route will be dropped — it will not be dropped. That said, apparently the Rail Authority only discusses the negative aspects of the SR-60 route when talking to the COG and cities, including the superfund sites, Whittier Narrows Dam, and the San Gabriel River.
    • Separately, I confirmed with the Rail Authority that the SR-60 route will continue to be studied. The route along the Union Pacific right of way will be dropped because the State of California lacks eminent domain over freight railroads (federal jurisdiction). It will also withdraw the route that is adjacent to the Union Pacific right of way because it is too destructive.
  • The Rail Authority is using an elevated platform as its default alignment along the I-10 freeway between the 710 and 605 freeways. It says it will continue studying a trench/tunnel option.
    • Note that a trench and tunnel are both prohibitively expensive. If the Rail Authority will not build a trench/tunnel through the uber-wealthy communities on the San Francisco Peninsula, what makes us think it would spend gobs of money to do so through our communities?
  • Coming from Union Station, the trains would approach the 10 freeway from a tunnel beneath Boyle Heights. The east portal for the tunnel will be located somewhere around Eastern Avenue in the City Terrace area of L.A., near Cal State L.A. See Map #1 below.
  • The minimum height for an elevated platform is 27 feet from ground level (or structure) to the bottom of the platform.
    • That means the tops of the wires would be about 50 feet high. That also means trains may continue to run below the elevated platform along the I-10, since it would only need 16 feet of clearance for cars and buses but 27 feet minimum for trains.
    • The maximum grade change allowed for high speed trains is 2.5%. That means the trains will stay level as the road dips and the platform height will vary based on depth of dips in the road.
    • The high speed train platform will be higher than 27 feet through much of Alhambra, San Gabriel, and Rosemead. As the City of Alhambra web site says, that 27 feet is a minimum height from the road level to the bottom of the platform. The trains will travel above the 10 & 710 freeways interchange. At that point, the platform will be 40 to 50 feet above the interchange (75 feet above street level of the I-10 freeway). The trains will also be about 100 to 110 feet above the street level at the wash (just past the 710).
      • For perspective, view Map #1. It is split into two sections. The top shows an elevation profile that shows the height of the platform relative to the ground. The bottom section shows a birds’ eye view of the map.
      • Map #2 is likewise split into two sections. The elevation profile is the bottom section, although I have not had time to calculate or insert the path of the trains to provide perspective similar to Map #1.
  • The Rail Authority intends to build above the existing pedestrian and auto bridges along the route if it builds an elevated structure
  • A station in El Monte likely will require homes and/or businesses to be torn down, but the Rail Authority cannot say how many yet because it is too early and it has not done enough work to give a reliable answer.
    • A high speed train station will require a space 7,600 feet long by about 100 feet wide. That much space is necessary to accommodate 4 tracks, with platforms 1,600 feet long and 6,000 feet to maneuver/switch trains to the platform tracks. In addition, the Rail Authority will need space for the station itself.

Additional Rail Authority Statements

I also asked questions of the Rail Authority that are related but not addressed in the COG memo. Here’s what I found out:

  1. After the March 3 Board meeting, the Rail Authority likely will place further work on the L.A. to San Diego line on hold. The state budget currently does not fund the supplemental alternatives analysis or the EIS/EIR for L.A. to San Diego.
  2. The Rail Authority will post the alternatives analysis report to its web site the week before the March 3 Rail Authority Board meeting.
  3. The Rail Authority has completed about 2% of its design and engineering work. It must complete a minimum of 15% before it can begin the EIR/EIS process. In addition, it will need to have formal scoping meetings before it can begin the EIR/EIS.
  4. There are no plans for Metrolink trains to run down the center of the freeway as they do right now. Instead, there are discussions about sharing the elevated platform with Metrolink trains. The Rail Authority also thinks it is possible that Metrolink trains use Union Pacific’s Alhambra Line. That line runs in a trench down Mission Blvd through Alhambra and through San Gabriel and El Monte.
    1. I am skeptical that Union Pacific will ever allow Metrolink long-term access to its tracks if it is openly hostile to the idea of sharing a right of way with the high speed rail project.
    2. Union Pacific and Metrolink currently have an informal quid pro quo that allows either to use tracks that belong to the other when necessary. That usually boils down to times when construction needs to be completed, a train has broken down on the tracks, or some other closure necessitates temporarily re-routing trains.

COG Memo

This memo was prepared by the COG to summarize what occurred at its working group meeting.









Map #1

This map was prepared by the City of Alhambra staff based on diagrams shown during the COG working group meeting. It has two sections. The first is an elevation profile that shows the height of the high speed rail platform relative to ground elevation and structures such as the 10/710 freeways interchange. The second section is a bird’s eye view of the area. Scroll to see the rest of the map.









Map #2

This map shows the path of the trains through the rest of Alhambra into San Gabriel and Rosemead. It includes an elevation profile; however, it does not include information about the height of the trains. Scroll to see the rest of the map.








Bottom line:

  • Attend the City Council meeting — Monday January 24 @7pm in City Hall. Now is when you voice your concerns and opinion to the City Council so it may incorporate your feedback into how it pursues this matter. If you are not in Alhambra, then you need to contact your City Council and demand it respond to the Rail Authority’s plans. This is part of the democratic process.
  • The SR-60 freeway route will still be studied. Only the two routes that use and are adjacent to the Union Pacific right of way will be withdrawn from consideration.
  • The Rail Authority likely will put further study on hold until funding becomes available. The state budget does not include funding for further design work, supplemental alternatives analysis, or the EIR/EIS process.
  • An El Monte high speed rail station likely will force the use of eminent domain and destruction of homes near the current El Monte station. Get the word out.
  • The high speed trains will fly by on elevated structures that at times are 75 feet or more in the air.
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