Why Altamont #2? - The Wilderness

Rail is an environmentally friendly form of transportation. High speed trains use very little energy to move large numbers of people over long distances. They use electric power, which can be generated from any number of renewable energy sources.

At the same time, the construction of the railway will impact the environment through which it runs, but not to the extent that freeways or air travel impact the environment. To minimize the impact on the environment, the path of the train should do whatever it reasonably can to avoid sensitive areas. But, just as you can't make a delicious omlette without breaking an egg or two, there will be a few places where the route of the high speed train will make an impact.

Photo by Robert Buchner

The current plans under evaluation in the Environmental Impact Report bring the railway from the Bay Area to the Central Valley somewhere south of San Jose. The northern crossing alternative is the "Diablo" alternative, the southern, the "Pacheco Pass" alternative. Missing from the current alternatives is the previously favored "Altamont" alignment.

The Diablo Alignment runs east from San Jose, entering the foothils around the intersection of US-101 and CA-85. Originally, the plan was for a 30-mile base tunnel all the way into the Central Valley. This tunnel would have been very costly, and very difficult to construct. As the alternatives (except Altamont) were further refined, complex software (Quantum) was utilized to search for better routes over the hills into the Central Valley. The Quantum software generated refined versions of each route, Pacheco and Diablo. Both of these routes would use fewer tunnels, but they would also make a greater impact on the environment they traverse. The Diablo alignment is especially disruptive, running across miles of roadless wilderness south of Mt Hamilton and possibly through portions of Henry Coe State Park.


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