Pacheco Pass Tunnel

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The Pacheco Pass Tunnel is a planned tunnel to carry California High-Speed Rail across the Diablo Range in the vicinity of Pacheco Pass east of Gilroy, California. The tunnel will be the first mountain crossing constructed as part of California High-Speed Rail, connecting the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Valley portions of the system.[1]

The tunnel is planned to consist of a pair of 28-foot (8.5 m) diameter tunnels.[2] At 13 miles (21 km) long they are expected to become North America’s longest rail tunnels, surpassing the Mount Macdonald Tunnel in British Columbia.[1][2] An additional 1.5-mile (2.4 km) rail tunnel is planned to be constructed to the west. The tunnels are expected to cost around $5 billion.[2] The tunnel path runs parallel to the existing Pacheco Tunnel and Santa Clara Tunnel, two contiguous water tunnels connecting the San Luis Reservoir into Santa Clara County.[2][3]


Locations of the Altamont and Pacheco Passes in California

In 2004, two options were in consideration for the Diablo Range crossing: the Pacheco Pass option and a "direct" 31-mile (50 km) tunnel between San Jose and Merced significantly north of the Pacheco Pass.[3] A route through the Altamont Pass even further north was also considered.[4] In July 2008 the Pacheco Pass option was selected.[5] The reasons were that the Altamont alignment would require the track to split west of the pass to serve different parts of the Bay Area, would require a new crossing of the San Francisco Bay using the Dumbarton Rail Bridge or a new bridge or tunnel nearby, and would require more homes to be seized by eminent domain. The Pacheco alignment however would require longer travel times to San Francisco, and being in a rural area leads to concerns of greater environmental harm.[4][6][7]

A November 2009 court ruling however reopened the environmental review process.[5] The suit was brought by the cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton, which opposed elevated high-speed rail tracks running through them and preferred the Altamont Pass route. By September 2010, the rail authority had completed extra studies and reapproved the same route. However, a November 2011 ruling again overturned the approval.[6] The Pacheco Pass alignment was upheld by the California Court of Appeal for the Third District in July 2014.[8][9]

In June 2017, the California High-Speed Rail Authority began performing geological sampling of the tunnel area, with a design-build contract expected to be awarded in 2018.[2] The rock under Pacheco Pass is known to be of the Franciscan Assemblage formation.[2][3][10]


  1. ^ a b Meachan, Jody (2017-01-30). "High-speed rail considers 2 record-setting options for Pacheco Pass tunnel". Silicon Valley Business Journal. Retrieved 2017-08-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Meacham, Jody (2017-06-14). "What's under Pacheco Pass and what's it mean for California high-speed rail?". Silicon Valley Business Journal. Retrieved 2017-08-27. 
  3. ^ a b c "Tunneling Issues Report" (PDF). California High-Speed Rail Authority. January 2014. pp. 16, 22–23. Retrieved 2017-08-26. 
  4. ^ a b Cabanatuan, Michael (2007-11-15). "High Speed Rail Authority staff advises Pacheco Pass route to L.A." SFGate. Retrieved 2017-08-27. 
  5. ^ a b "Appendix G: Draft Alternatives Analysis Public Participation Report for the San Jose to Merced High-Speed Train Project EIR/EIS" (PDF). California High-Speed Rail Authority. 2010. Retrieved 2017-08-26. 
  6. ^ a b Rosenberg, Mike (2011-11-10). "Judge: Bullet train must ax route through South Bay, Peninsula, for now". The Mercury News. Retrieved 2017-08-27. 
  7. ^ Lew, Alexander (2007-12-22). "California High Speed Rail's Route Debate Is Over". Wired. Retrieved 2017-08-27. 
  8. ^ Sheehan, Tim (2014-07-24). "Appellate court upholds environmental work for high-speed rail via Pacheco Pass". Fresno Bee. Retrieved 2017-08-27. 
  9. ^ "Third Court of Appeal: Atherton v. CaHSRA". DocumentCloud. Retrieved 2017-09-21. 
  10. ^ Rush, Jim (2016-11-17). "Connecting California: High-Speed Rail System to Enhance Statewide Transportation Network". Tunnel Business Magazine. Retrieved 2017-08-27. 

External links

  • A video about HSR geotechnical work in the Pacheco Pass

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