Caltrain board signs blended system agreement with High Speed Rail; waiting for the High Speed Rail Authority board

Today, the Caltrain Joint Powers Board signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to work with the High Speed Rail authority to work together to implement the “blended system.”   But they will need to wait until the High Speed  Rail Authority Board’s next meeting in April to get the High Speed Rail Authority’s consent, after an unsuccessful attempt to approve the MOU yesterday in Redwood City.  HSRA Northern California representative Ben Tripousis assured the Caltrain board that the Authority Board would have the votes in April.

Yesterday in Redwood City, HSRA board member Lynn Shrenk surprised her fellow board members by saying she plans to vote against the MOU, having voted for the earlier 9-party Memorandum of Understanding which funded the blended system. This vote requires a super-majority majority of the full board. However three board seats are vacant, and Board Member Rossi, who is reported to support the MOU, was not present, so there were not enough votes to approve.

The blended system is the plan, originally floated by legislators Eshoo, Simitian and Gordon, to have High Speed Rail and Caltrain share tracks, instead of creating a dedicated set of tracks for High Speed Rail. The blended system is expected to provide lower capacity than the dedicated plan, with six Caltrain trains per hour per direction at peak, and up to 4 high speed trains per hour.  The initial proposal would have created capacity for up to 12 high speed trains per hour, compared to 3 tph from Paris to London and from New York to DC.

The bump in the road toward the blended system pleases supporters of maximum high speed rail capacity and opponents of the High Speed Rail project (see some of the comments to this Palo Alto Online article).  At the High Speed Rail Authority board meeting yesterday, the blended system was supported by business groups including the San Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA), Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Bay Area Council, and grass roots advocacy group Friends of Caltrain, contributor to this blog. It seems likely that the compromise measure will be approved next month.