High Speed Rail

Please see the attched recent update from the California High Speed Rail Authority as presented to San Jose Community Working Group Members on August 16, 2018. All San Jose Working Group Meetings are open to the general public. Be active and get involved.

Final_Aug 16_CWG_Presentation.pdf

Please see below the 2018 Draft Business Plan, Capital Cost Basis of Estimated Report, and Ridership/Revenue Forecasting.



California's High Speed Rail Project is in the news:

The California High Speed Rail Proposal for San Jose:

The Proposal:

The CAHSR Authority has announced plans to run high speed trains down the Monterey Road corridor. The CAHSRA is currently looking at two alternatives:

  • At Grade- Running the HSR trains along the existing Union Pacific corridor.
  • Viaduct- Running HSR trains along a viaduct down the middle of Monterey Road at heights of up to 85 feet above our homes.
  • Cut/Cover- The CAHSR Authority had rejected the cut/cover and tunneling options out of hand due to what they saw as the excessive costs associated with these options. In response to community outcry, the City of San Jose has hired two agencies to conduct a "second-opinion" evaluation of the cut/cover and tunneling options.
  • "The cost of $68 billion is excessive. It amounts to $200M/mile for the undeviated 344 mile distance between LA and SF. However the proposed Japanese maglev system between Tokyo and Nagoya is estimated to cost $5 trillion yen/286 km, or $167 M/mile. It involves over 142 miles of tunnel! In addition, the proposed speed is substantially greater than CAHSR. So avoiding tunneling does not seem to be saving on US construction costs.
  • The CAHSR Authority has stated that their current expectation is that between 150-300 properties within the boundaries of San Jose may be subject to condemnation.
  • The CAHSR Authority has communicated that they have NO plans to make constituents whole and/or to compensate for damages or injuries suffered as a result of the HSR system. These damages/injuries include but are not limited to: excessive noise, shading of property, loss of privacy, damages to the structure of homes due to vibration, Electromagnetic Fields, Electromagnetic Interference (to satellite, TV, etc.), loss of property value, traffic, etc.

Potential Problems:

  • The World Health Organization has stated that those living in close proximity to HSR may experience magnetic fields from overhead supplies equivalent to that of living next to High voltage power lines. There is some evidence that a slight increase childhood leukemia is correlated with EMF. They suggest a 50 meter environmental zone or 164 feet.
  • There were many lawsuits (noise, vibration, home damage) resultant of the operation of the Shinkansen line in the Nagoya region of Japan resulting in recommendations for a 60 ft environmental zone on both sides of the right of way, an improved platform, and slower speeds in residential areas. The CAHSR Authority has proposed placing rail between 30-50 feet behind San Jose residential homes with minimal or no reductions in speed.
  • The new bullet train will travel at 220 mph and use 2.7 million kilowatts of electricity daily, according to the AP. That's the equivalent of one fourth the output of Hoover Dam.
  • Japan has the safest, most punctual high-speed rail system in the world, according to Wharton University of Pennsylvania. “In case of an earthquake, a fire or an accident, we can imagine very high casualties,” Mr Hashiyama says. If this wasn't scary enough, the CAHSRA is planning to run high speed trains smack through the Anderson Reservoir flood plain and seismically active areas.
  • The time delay of the UrEDAS (Earthquake Warning System) is said to be 26 seconds on average, which means that even if the system works, a train running at 240-270 kph will most likely keep running for about 1.5km on the violently shaking construction before managing an emergency halt (NAKAMURA Yutaka, March, 1996). The train may get derailed or overturned, or crash into a collapsed building. The UrEDAS is a system which works more effectively when the seismic source is further away. It is incompetent when an earthquake occurs directly underneath the area where the train is running at high speed.
  • The current cumulative funding for the California “bullet train” is about $26 billion, and is composed of a $9-billion voter approved rail bond issue, $3.2 billion in Obama administration grants and the legislature’s allocation of $250 million to $1 billion a year in cap-and-trade revenues. That means the project is about $67 billion under-funded.
  • The ridership/use estimates unrealistically assume the “bullet train” will race non-stop at 110 miles an hour in the southern mountains and 220 miles an hour in the Los Angeles basin, the Central Valley and the Bay Area. The Chinese slowed their HSR trains down from 220 mph to 185 mph because they learned some laws of physics: for each speed increase of 10 mph over 185 mph, train maintenance costs double. Not only do wheels get replaced more frequently, but rails too.
  • The HSRA also plans to save $30 billion in additional costs by shifting to a “blended” plan that uses the existing 50-mile-per-hour commuter tracks in LA and the Bay Area. This will add another hour.

Noise Problems:

  • High Speed Rail will produce between 90 and 100dBA per the US Department of Transportation. Trains are planned to run a minimum of every 6 minutes. Although the duration of the noise will be short, trains will be running constantly subjecting adjacent neighborhoods to significant noise and disruption. The 2008 bond act, which provided $9 billion for the high-speed rail program, required that the train system allow the operation of trains every five minutes in each direction.
  • The viaduct option will add 1-2 dBA.
  • Trenching could result in a 5-15 dBA reduction depending on trench depth.
  • The noise from a 200 mph train is greater than a jack hammer at 50 feet.
  • Propulsion and rolling noise are generally adequate to describe the total noise up to speeds of approximately 160 mph for steel-wheeled trains. Above this speed, however, aerodynamic noise sources tend to dominate the radiated noise levels. These sources begin to generate significant noise at speeds of approximately 180 mph, depending on the magnitude of the mechanical/structural noise.
  • A fifteen foot high sound wall above the height of the rail car is required to mitigate aerodynamic noise.
  • The distance between the train tracks and the listener, the type of ground surface, and the presence of buildings or sound barriers, will all influence the noise level that is heard by a listener at any given location. As defined by the FRA, every doubling of distance from the source to the listener will reduce the noise from HST by approximately 3 dBA to 4.5 dBA depending on the type of ground conditions.


Jet take-off (at 25 meters)

150 Eardrum rupture

140 Aircraft carrier deck

Military jet aircraft take-off from aircraft carrier with afterburner at 50 ft (130 dB).


Thunderclap, chain saw. Oxygen torch (121 dB).

120 Painful. 32 times as loud as 70 dB.

Steel mill, auto horn at 1 meter. Turbo-fan aircraft at takeoff power at 200 ft (118 dB). Riveting machine (110 dB); live rock music (108 - 114 dB).

110 Average human pain threshold. 16 times as loud as 70 dB.

Jet take-off (at 305 meters), use of outboard motor, power lawn mower, motorcycle, farm tractor, jackhammer, garbage truck. Boeing 707 or DC-8 aircraft at one nautical mile (6080 ft) before landing (106 dB); jet flyover at 1000 feet (103 dB); Bell J-2A helicopter at 100 ft (100 dB).

100 8 times as loud as 70 dB. Serious damage possible in 8 hr exposure.

Boeing 737 or DC-9 aircraft at one nautical mile (6080 ft) before landing (97 dB); power mower (96 dB); motorcycle at 25 ft (90 dB). Newspaper press (97 dB).

90 4 times as loud as 70 dB. Likely damage in 8 hour exposure.

Garbage disposal, dishwasher, average factory, freight train (at 15 meters). Car wash at 20 ft (89 dB); propeller plane flyover at 1000 ft (88 dB); diesel truck 40 mph at 50 ft (84 dB); diesel train at 45 mph at 100 ft (83 dB). Food blender (88 dB); milling machine (85 dB); garbage disposal (80 dB).

80 2 times as loud as 70 dB. Possible damage in 8 hour exposure.

Passenger car at 65 mph at 25 ft (77 dB); freeway at 50 ft from pavement edge 10 a.m. (76 dB). Living room music (76 dB); radio or TV-audio, vacuum cleaner (70 dB).

70 Arbitrary base of comparison. Upper 70s are annoyingly loud to some people

Citation: Industrial Noise Control Center