Thursday, September 27, 2012

September Meeting Recap

Thanks to all those who came out for our meeting under the stars and before an apropos backdrop.

We kicked off the meeting with the election of the 2013 NWGNA board. We have seen participation increase over the past few years and as a result, previous to the elections, the Board made some changes to the bylaws that slightly increased the size of the board. Our prior position known as Secretary/Treasurer changed to two individual positions and the Board Member positions increased from five to six. Taken together, this creates a total of eleven seats. This will do nicely should an inter-neighborhood association soccer league magically materialize. So without further ado, here is your current lineup.

President: Harvey Darnell
Vice President: Bill Rankin
Treasurer: Sheila Hunter
Secretary: Mary Pizzo
Past President: Chris Davis
Board Members (6): Alison England, Dan Erceg, Lila Kakuk, Barbara Keegan, Mark Lloyd, Vacant

We've worked with Vacant for a couple of years not long ago and s/he rarely showed up to meetings or really did anything tangible, so if you have an interest in replacing Vacant, we have an interest in having you do so. This is a chance to work with some good people doing some good things so contact us at to learn more. There will also be opportunities to participate on individual projects such as the Garage Sale, Party in the Park, Beautification Days, or Holiday Decoration Contest/Party outside of formal board membership.

After the elections we moved quickly to our guest speaker Marian Lee, Caltrain Modernization Program Executive Officer. Ms. Lee answered many of our questions and was able to elaborate on many of the details of Caltrain's move to electric trains and their compatibility with High Speed Rail (HSR). Here are a few bullet points from Ms. Lee.

- Caltrain and HSR plan to share tracks from SF to Diridon Station where HSR tracks will diverge and reconnect at Tamien Station, however electrification will be implemented all the way to Tamien. Ms. Lee will get back to us with how Caltrain will operate with respect to trains operating south of Tamien to Morgan Hill and Gilroy. These trains must use diesel so the concept is to use diesel trains as a shuttle to a station, then transfer to electric service. Which station is the question.
- Without the addition of passing tracks (none of which are being considered in North Willow Glen) they expect to reach a maximum of six Caltrain trains and two HSR trains per hour during peak times. Additional passing tracks could increase HSR by two more trains per hour while maintaining the 6 Caltrain trains.
- Implementation will begin with an upgraded train signaling system which will allow for more efficient coordination of trains in the system
- UPRR will continue to operate on the tracks and will continue to do so with diesel-fueled trains, as will Amtrak. The time window that UPRR will be allowed to operate will continue to be 12-5am, however mid-day and evening UPRR access will be halted.
- The total investment to Caltrain Modernization is $1.5B with $705M coming from HSR funds. Those funds are solely for Caltrain Modernization (thought the signaling will be shared) and not for use to create a four-track system.
- The new signal system will be completed in 2015. The completed electrification system is scheduled to be up and running in 2019. The addition of HSR is scheduled for completion in 2029
- The first 1-2 years will consist of environmental review and design. Ms. Lee vowed that Caltrain will conduct more public hearings than required by law, including venues in San Jose. Participants including NWGNA officers requested prior access to the designs in order to work with Caltrain to produce the best initial document possible.
- Years 3-4 are for construction. The work hours will be determined in the environmental reports above, so we should have some advance notice. The work will be done in stages so our area will be affected for only a portion of that period. To clarify something said at a previous meeting, the pole spacing for the catenary wires will be 150' or more. Ms. Lee will get back to us with a better idea of that. No track or tie improvements are planned for our section.
- While the new rolling stock will be lighter and able to accelerate faster, the top speed of 79 MPH will not change, though it should be noted that the slow speeds through our neighborhood will also not increase either as they must slow down for the sharp turns and station approach.
There were a few questions, some listed above, that Ms. Lee will answer for us after doing a bit of research. I will communicate those in the coming days.

So that's it in a (rather large) nutshell.

Update: Some funds for the Caltrain Modernization were recently released.

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