City visualizes high-speed rail 

With high-speed rail service fast approaching downtown Burlingame, city officials are attempting to give the community a look at what is coming.

The city is considering installing story poles at street crossings across existing Caltrain tracks to simulate the high-speed rail route being considered by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The projected 50-mile route from San Francisco to San Jose will cut straight through the middle of historic downtown Burlingame, dividing the community in two. Residents living east of the tracks will be separated from downtown business districts; residents living west of the tracks will be separated from Burlingame High School, the recreation center and Washington Park, said Charles Voltz, co-chair of Citizens for a Better Burlingame — a neighborhood group opposed to the high-speed rail project.

While the tracks will follow the existing Caltrain corridor, construction plans include erecting an elevated train freeway rising almost 50 feet above the Caltrain tracks in downtown Burlingame.

By providing residents with the opportunity to visualize downtown Burlingame with the elevated tracks, city officials hope they will grasp the potential impact of bringing high-speed rail to the city.

The poles would be the height of the planned tracks and connected with an orange net or some other material representing the tracks, Department of Public Works Director Syed Murtuza said.

Murtuza said he did not know how the story pole project was being funded.

It has been suggested that the tracks be underground, but the CHSRA would not be able to handle the increased cost of constructing a tunnel.

While Proposition 1A, passed by state voters in 2008 to create the high-speed rail project, provides the CHSRA with the $11 billion needed to break ground in Burlingame, it is likely the agency will not have enough funding to complete the project, a total estimated at $42.6 billion.

The CHSRA is pursuing an additional $17 billion to $19 billion in federal funding, as well as $4 billion to $5 billion in local support through public-private partnerships, CHSRA spokeswoman Rachel Wall said.

Burlingame has been forced to make cutbacks due to the shaky economy, and does not have any money to spend on high-speed rail, Murtuza said.

“We don’t know where the money will come from,” Murtuza said. “We have already expended significant resources and staff time to deal with educating the public about this project. The city has no money to spend on this when we are already struggling to provide basic services to the community.”


This article was corrected on July 22. The original article said the Burlingame City Council had proposed high-speed rail tracks be underground. The City Council has not made that proposal.

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