The simple answer: there's a lot more room in the Caltrain corridor than most people realize.
Right of Way Statistics
Average width: 112 ft (34 m)
Percentage 75 ft or wider: 94%
Percentage 80 ft or wider: 88%
Percentage 85 ft or wider: 80%
Percentage 90 ft or wider: 77%
Percentage 95 ft or wider: 70%
Percentage 100 ft or wider: 68%
The chart at right shows a graph of the width of the railroad right of way (in feet) versus milepost, constructed from official Caltrain right of way maps.
CHSRA documents indicate that the minimum width required for four tracks is about 75 feet; this is shown by a dotted red line in the chart. A comfortable width (allowing access roads and landscaping) is about 100 feet. The results:
- Along the two thirds (68%) of the peninsula rail corridor that are wider than 100 feet, HSR is an easy fit within the existing right of way.
- For another quarter (27%) of the corridor that is between 75 feet and 100 feet wide, HSR is a tighter fit, but possible without eminent domain
- For the remaining 5% of the corridor that is narrower than 75 feet, some eminent domain is necessary to achieve a minimum width of 75 feet.
One can calculate the area of land required to bring the entire corridor to 75 ft minimum width. Again some corridor length statistics, straight from the chart above:
50 (minimum) to 55 feet wide: 0.38 miles (needs 25 feet extra)
55 to 60 feet wide: 0.09 miles (needs 20 feet)
60 to 65 feet wide: 0.59 miles (needs 15 feet)
65 to 70 feet wide: 0.06 miles (needs 10 feet)
70 to 75 feet wide: 1.75 miles (needs 5 feet)
Adding up the series of strips with the dimensions above, the grand total amount of land required to widen the entire peninsula corridor to a minimum of 75 feet is less than four acres.
To put that figure into proper perspective:
- the entire corridor is about 700 acres, so the required land is about half a percent more.
- the CHSRA has a budget of $4.2 billion for the San Francisco to San Jose segment. At Atherton prices ($4 million per acre), the required land is worth about a third of a percent of that budget.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Southern Pacific secured enough land to expand the railroad to four tracks, precisely what is now envisioned for high speed rail. Is it any wonder that the California High Speed Rail Authority considers the Caltrain corridor a slam-dunk?