Caltrain has released a new study of the passing track options that would enable the corridor to carry more trains to support high speed rail. While all of the five options that Caltrain studied were feasible, the two center options performed best – a 9 mile, 4 track segment from Hayward Park to Redwood City, and a 15-mile 3-track segment from Hayward Park to Cal Ave. The 4 track high-performing design would affect San Mateo, Belmont, San Carlos, and Redwood City; the 3-track design would additionally affect Atherton, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto.
The 3 track design would not have trains on the same track headed in the opposite direction – instead, half of the distance would be used for northbound trains, and half would be used for southbound trains. Less right of way width would be needed with the 3-track design, but recovery from delays would be more difficult with the 3-track configuration.
(These proposed future passing tracks aren’t the first on the corridor – Caltrain already has several 4 and 3-track sections at the Bayshore station, Redwood Junction in North Fair Oaks, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.)
Based on studies done last year, additional passing tracks would be needed to support more than 8 trains per hour per direction on the corridor. The corridor could support 6 Caltrain trains and 2 High Speed rail trains with the current tracks. According to current plans, High Speed Rail is expected to arrive on the Peninsula Corridor in the 2026-2029 time frame. Therefore, passing tracks might not be needed until sometime after 2029.
Given these results, it would be helpful for Caltrain to disclose the right of way requirements for the best-performing options. Even though the passing tracks likely won’t be needed for 15 or more years, cities are creating long-term plans, transit-oriented developments, and other infrastructure around the tracks in the interim. It would be useful to know what the right of way requirements might be to enable communities to more confidently make plans.