Hi-speed rail favors Pacheco Pass



The California High-Speed Rail Authority staff has made its selection for the preferred route for the bullet train; cutting straight through Morgan Hill’s downtown, a stop just south of Gilroy’s downtown and a tunnel through Pacheco Pass. 

The staff will recommend to the authority board that the train use the existing Union Pacific Railroad corridor from Morgan Hill through Gilroy. This alternative would electrify the tracks currently used by Caltrain.

The plans call for no stop in Morgan Hill, but Northern California Regional Director for the authority, Boris Lipkin, said the newly electrified Caltrain tracks will benefit Morgan Hill. Electrifying the tracks will allow for more lower-speed commuter trains connecting San Jose, Morgan Hill and Gilroy, Lipkin said. 

Other options for the High-Speed Rail included viaducts that would run alongside US-101, bypassing both Morgan Hill and Gilroy’s downtown areas, or creating a completely new track between Monterey Road and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. 

Pacheco Pass

The portion of the High-Speed Rail that will pass through Pacheco Pass will include embankments, viaducts and a tunnel. 

There will be a 1.5-mile tunnel near Casa De Fruta and a 13.5-mile tunnel through Pacheco Pass.

“There would be a long tunnel around the northern arm of the San Luis Reservoir and viaducts over the California Aqueduct, Delta-Mendota Canal, and I-5,” said the High-Speed Rail information packet.

Tunneling through Pacheco is a major funding obstacle for the authority on a project that has never been fully funded and is currently under threat of losing all federal funding. The announcement of the recommendation July 2 does not guarantee this will be the final route for the High-Speed Rail through San Jose south to Gilroy. The authority will host several town hall meetings over the summer to hear from the community and the board will vote on the alternative at a Sept. 17 board meeting.

The Northern Californian portion of the route has never been fully funded. The authority has recently run into more funding trouble after the Federal Rail Administration sent a notice of funding withdrawal, which would cause the high-speed project to lose nearly a billion dollars.

Morgan Hill

The Morgan Hill portion of the route, as recommended by authority staff, would pass through the existing tracks on Depot Street adjacent to Morgan Hill’s downtown. 

Lipkin said that this route would add two tracks to the existing rail lines. He said that in most places the plans fit within the existing space, but other portions of the route would need to be expanded out to accommodate.

There would be platforms on each side of the tracks and gates on either side. In Morgan Hill, the areas surrounding the train tracks are densely populated; Lipkin said the new rail would avoid a new train-themed city park that is right next to the track on Depot Street.

When the train passes through, two barricades would come down to ensure traffic cannot pass. 

Despite coming through Morgan Hill’s downtown, Lipkin said, “Alternative 4 has the least impact when it comes to displacement.”


The recommended route for the High-Speed Rail in Gilroy will create a rail hub in the city just outside of downtown. 

Other alternative routes for Gilroy would have created a stop near the Gilroy outlets. A stop has always been planned for Gilroy.

“The maximum train speed would be 110 mph where operations would be blended between San Jose and Gilroy,” said the authority information sheet. “South and east of Gilroy, speeds would increase up to 220 mph in the dedicated High-Speed Rail portion of the alignment.”

The Gilroy hub is considered to be a major economic opportunity for the city.

Lipkin said the authority is just working toward getting plans in place and will deal with funding challenges once construction is imminent. “There’s a number of years of work in front of us before we’re ready to issue the big construction contracts,” said Lipkin.

After the authority board approves an alternative, Lipkin said it will take about two years to obtain environmental clearances and advance the designs.

Community meetings will be held this summer to collect feedback on the recommended route: 

Aug. 8 in Gilroy; Aug. 21 in Los Banos; Aug. 15 in San Jose; and a Sept. 17 board meeting in San Jose.

According to the authority feedback can also be given by email at [email protected], by phone at 800-455-8166, or by mail: Northern California Regional Office California High-Speed Rail Authority 100 Paseo De San Antonio, Suite 300 San Jose, CA 95113.


  1. Dear Friends,
    Here’s my first public comment in response to the CAHSRA’s enviornmental impact report for the Merced-Gilroy-San Jose-SF segment of this Supermassive Black Hole, for which they want motorists and truckers to pay twice or treble the gas & diesel taxes we current pay to subsidize their boondoggle. Voters voted for self-sufficient high speed rail not the huge boondoggle tax guzzler the CAHSRA is cramming down our throats. Instead of taxing motorists more to pay for it, we ought to transfer all the public sector transit subsidies to it instead, and privatize public sector transit. We cannot afford to pay for both.:—-
    Attorney at Law
    8339 Church Street, Gilroy, CA 95020
    Telephone (408) 848-5506; Fax (408) 848-4246
    E-mail: [email protected]

    March 23, 2009

    Fax: 916-322-0827
    Mr. Mehdi Morshed, Exec. Dir.
    High Speed Rail Authority
    925 L Street, Suite 1425
    P. O. BOX 942874, MS-74
    Sacramento, CA 95814

    Re: Public Comment HSRA’s Environmental Impact Report SF-San Jose-Gilroy-Merced

    Dear Mr. Morshed,

    Thank you for allowing members of the public to comment on HSRA’s EIR for the San Francisco-San Jose-Gilroy-Merced Segment.

    Identity of Author. I am a graduate of San Jose State University, and have done post-doctoral study of transportation law and policy at the Mineta Institute at SJSU. I write only for myself, and not on behalf of a client or organization, but merely to express my personal reply to the EIR for the segment that includes Gilroy, where I have practiced law for more than 30 years.

    Background. I here refer to and incorporate by reference: (1) my letter to you dated 3/10/04; (2) letter dated 2/23/09, amended 3/13/09, from Mr. J.S. Jerry Wilmoth, UPRR; (3) Map CA-13, CA-17a&b, and CA-18, Railroad Atlas of North America, California and Nevada, pp. 18, 22-23; and Wendell Cox & Adrian T. Moore, The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report, Reason Foundation, Sept. 2008; Legislative Analyst’s Office, The High-Speed Rail Authority, March 17, 2009 (see copies enclosed).

    Summary. The crucial question facing us with HSR’s proposal was concisely stated by the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta: “The crucial question in transportation today is: What should government do, and what should it leave to others.” The sound, sustainable answer to Secretary Mineta’s “crucial question” lies in the private sector; not in the public sector. With free enterprise as a foundation, high speed rail’s owners and investors can combine profitable freight revenue with losing passenger fares, rather than asking the maxed-out taxpayers of California for more tax subsidies for yet another public-sector passenger mode of travel.

    Comment: Funding Source for Operations. The current proposal does not satisfy the requirements of sound railroading, while it adheres to the tax-dependent method of finance akin to Amtrak, Caltrain and urban mass transit, with only a very small fraction of the overall expenses paid for by the patrons. The underlying assumption that taxpayers can continue to pony-up the subsidies for more government-owned transport is wrong. History shows the proposal to be fatally flawed. All of the State-owned railroads in the Nation failed in 1837-1840. Lincoln knew personally about those failures, so when General Granville Dodge recommended to the President in 1864 that the government own the transcontinental railroad, Lincoln said “no.” His theory, which ultimately worked, was that private enterprise own the railroads, but that the government would aid in their construction. When the Nation’s railroads were nationalized during World War I, it only took 18 months before the government’s mismanagement had brought all our railroads to a screeching halt. So, Congress reversed its previous decision and de-nationalized our railroads. In 1970 during debates in Congress on formation of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), some members promised that Amtrak “would be profitable in three years.” Amtrak has failed to break even, and requires ever-increasing tax subsidies to continue its operations. Our Nation paid dearly for Amtrak’s subsidies because on 9/11/01 we did have Amtrak, but we did not have adequate airport security.
    The north-south tonnage flows in California, on Hwy. I-5, US 101, and Hwy. 99, represent a source of funding that could, in a private-sector model, duplicate and exceed taxpayers’ subsidies in the public-sector model as proposed in the EIR. The French government has announced that it will have Fedex freight transported by that nation’s HSR starting next year, so those with experience in operating HSR in Europe have apparently resorted to freight revenue as a source of funding. We could reduce air pollution, traffic congestion, and road and bridge support deterioration and maintenance expenses if we diverted some of that tonnage onto HSR. I have said this to the HSRA since before its creation when it was a Commission.
    I believe that reliance on tax subsidies ought to be deemed unfeasible, given the tax/fee burdens already imposed on Californians by all levels of government, not to mention the even larger burdens which our generation is imposing on future generations.
    Rather, the manner in which railroads were originally created, and funded, freight revenue combined with losing passenger fares, ought to be the funding formula upon which the HSR is created and maintained.
    As the LAO’s Report states (page 5), the HSR service should “not require an operating subsidy.” A feasible “funding source . . . for future years . . .” (page 6, LAO’s Report) exists now and will exist into the future: freight revenue. As with freight moving in the bellies of airliners, HSR can transport freight, thereby decreasing air pollution because the fuel savings per ton/mile is about 75% compared with rubber tires hauling freight on concrete or asphalt. The profit made moving freight can offset the losses sustained transporting passengers. Overnight shipments between Northern and Southern California can be transported without interfering with daytime, commute hours.

    Comment: UP’s Property Rights.
    In addition to those aspects identified by Cox and Moore (“Reason Report”), the UP’s Coast Main Line, which is part of its incomparable interstate railroad, and considered by many to be the best railroad in the whole world, if not in America, is entirely its to own, for its shareholders’ benefit. The Nation’s national security and interstate commerce justify the position paramount to lesser entities, the States, and local government, which the courts have repeatedly upheld on federal preemption grounds. A look at the Maps of UP’s tracks in the SF Peninsula, San Jose, and South Bay Area show that the current HSRA proposal is impossible without UP’s consent. Since UP has not given its consent (Mr. Wilmoth’s Letter enclosed), the proposed route is not a legally possible route, even if the HSRA could find the tax subsidy money to operate it as currently proposed.

    Conclusion. I believe that Secretary Mineta was right. However, HSRA’s answer is wrong for California, and impossibly burdensome for its taxpayers in this and future generations. By following our predecessors’ example, and having learned from their mistakes, we can have sound, sustainable HSR in California.

    Caveat Viator!

    Respectfully yours,


  2. Barry, Why won’t you publish my rebuttal and reply to your Article? Joe Thompson (408) 848-5506
    And why don’t you ever report the fraud, waste and abuse at the transit agencies VTA (operating ratio 10% LOWEST in USA) COG (farebox recovery rate dipped below legal limit which they reported at 9.9% but would be much worse if they had to use legal accounting like the rest of us are required to use by State and Federal tax regs). To keep their bankrupt boondoggles running, they have to rob gas & diesel taxes paid by motorists, which politicians do to reward their special interest friends at the public sector unions that run the transit vehicles. Why don’t you have your Reporter report on the COG LTA audit results, which you can read if you Google “farebox recovery rates at boondoggle transit agencies.” Joe Thompson (408) 848-5506 [email protected] PS I mailed you a copy of the Bay Area Transit Agencies insolvency in operations so you ought to give it to your Reporter. I’ll drop over and talk with you about it. jpt PS. Bullet Train is Supersized Boondoggle with same fraud, waste and abuse. jpt To their eternal shame, local politicians help COG cover-up the true extent of their bankrupt boondoggle’s losses. Why don’t you report it? Shine some light on the fraud, waste and abuse at COG. jpt

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