Morgan Hill

City Council Staff Report



Department:DS (General)Sponsors:



1.     Should the City invest City resources to develop design solutions to High Speed Rail (HSR) that will minimize project impacts through Morgan Hill?


2.     Should the City update City Standards to ensure they are up to date, complete, and anticipatory of a large State-wide train project?


3.     Should the City develop Design Guidelines for HSR so that the project is best designed to accommodate the needs and desires of the Morgan Hill community and respectful of the most impacted neighborhoods?


4.     Should the City peer review HSR’s assumptions for the Highway 101 alignment to explore whether the HSR project could be accommodated within the Highway 101 right-of-way?



The California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) is a State Agency responsible for the planning, design, and construction of the California high speed rail system that will connect the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles (eventually from Sacramento to San Diego) with a train system that will run at speeds of over 200 miles per hour providing Bay Area residents with an additional local transportation option, further connecting the region, alleviating pressure on local freeways and roads and reducing greenhouse gas emission.


The CHSRA will provide the City Council and community a project update at the City Council meeting on May 24, 2017.  This will also provide the City Council with an opportunity to discuss project details with the CHSRA, reiterate the Council’s and community’s concerns with the potential for HSR to pass through Morgan Hill, and discuss strategies to mitigate any potential impacts. As a point of reference, attached is the letter sent from the City Attorney to CAHSR dated May 2, 2017. Also attached is the  City’s December 9, 2016 letter to CHSRA requesting a Highway 101 right-of-way alignment that avoided impacts to residential neighborhoods, schools, and existing retail centers.


The envisioned San Francisco to Los Angeles (HSR connection will offer users an alternate transportation mode connecting northern and southern California via a three-hour train ride.  The portion of the project that includes Morgan Hill is known as the San Jose to Merced segment. HSR will have train stations in Gilroy and San Jose, but not in Morgan Hill.


At the most recent Open House hosted by CHSRA on May 1, 2017, CHSRA staff presented the alignments currently being evaluated by CHSRA through Morgan Hill:


1)     Embankment adjacent to Union Pacific Rail Road (UPRR). In this alternative, HSR would be constructed on a berm (seven-foot minimum dirt mound) along the east side of the UPRR tracks.  This berm may be taller and envisions four tracks: two for HSR and two for CalTrain. This option requires grade separation of Main Street and Dunne Avenue and in addition to the seven-foot berm, a 16-foot sound wall may be placed on top of the berm to mitigate noise.


2)     Viaduct along West Side of 101. In this alternative, HSR would be placed on an elevated structure (viaduct) along the west side of highway 101 in Morgan Hill. It is possible that this viaduct may be 60 to 80 feet tall to avoid the freeway overpasses. This structure may also require a noise barrier wall on top of the structure.


CHSRA is working under a business plan that expects the project to be operational by 2025. Construction for the HSR is already underway in the Central Valley with a 32-mile stretch between Madera and Fresno Counties.  We expect that the project Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/EIS) for the segment that impacts Morgan Hill will be completed by November 2017. The City has requested an expanded review period for City to be able to review the EIR/EIS and provide comments in 60 days instead of the traditional 30 days.


We recognize that in spite of HSR’s funding and political struggles, the project will continue to progress and the implications to this community could be devastating. It is important to also recognize that while we are asking CHSRA for a design alternative that uses the most advanced engineering and design solutions in order to preserve and protect the neighborhoods and businesses in this community, we need to use our best efforts to influence the process. Although the City has no direct influence over the decisions made by HSR, we recommend making every effort to encourage HSR to consider the most optimal design solutions for our community. 


On June 1, 2016, the City Council adopted a resolution to enter into a Reimbursement Agreement with the CHSRA for the review of technical engineering documentsThe Reimbursement Agreement is for up to $409,642.


To this end, staff proposes three separate contracts that will help evaluate and advance design solutions for Morgan Hill. These contracts are important to assist the City in ensuring the community’s long-term best interests are protected. Below is a summary of the three contracts:


Michael Baker International—Review of Highway 101 Alternative


Michael Baker International is an experienced railroad transit engineering firm that is currently under contract with the City to evaluate Quit Crossings. We are asking this firm for a technical railroad and transit engineering review of the Highway 101 corridor alignment. The company will do two key evaluations, first, it will evaluate and peer review the work of CHSRA on Highway 101 and determine if they believe that the HSR project could be accommodated within the Highway 101 right-of-way. If Michael Baker International ascertains that a project alignment could be accommodated within the freeway right-of-way, the technical analysis and conceptual alignment configurations will be provided. Even though the West of 101 alignment is not supported by the City Council, Michael Baker will evaluate CAHSR currently proposed West of 101 alignment and offer recommendations for improvement that would minimize impacts to private property so the City has the necessary information should the CHSRA formally select this location for HSR. This contract is for $64,026 and the work is expected to be completed within 45 days. This contract is expected to be fully reimbursed by CHSRA through the existing Reimbursement Agreement.

Urban Field Studio—Design Guidelines


Urban Field Studio, under the leadership of Frank Fuller, will help the City of Morgan Hill develop project-specific design guidelines to improve on the HSR design through Morgan Hill to: a) develop design solutions through the potentially most impacted areas, such as the Walnut Grove neighborhood, through the Monterey segment adjacent the Morgan Hill Ranch Business Park and Downtown and b) develop design enhancements that take into account the community’s desire for access, circulation, lighting, art, parks and trails, and gateway designs. Frank Fuller and team will host a large open house to collect feedback and a symposium to present design guidelines and when a draft is completed, a second meeting to receive additional community feedback. The intention is that through Urban Field Studio’s help, the project can be designed in a way that is most respectful of the Morgan Hill community and minimizes project impacts. The Design Guidelines are expected to be adopted by the City Council and forwarded to CHSRA for its review and consideration. The contract is for $153,440 and is expected to be fully reimbursed by CHSRA through the existing Reimbursement Agreement.


Kitchell—City Standards


Kitchell is a General Contractor that offers construction management, real estate development, program management, engineering, and architecture, among other services. Kitchell will review the City’s construction standards (City Standards) and update them and create new ones with HSR’s project in mind. Companies constructing in Morgan Hill are required to abide by the City’s Standards. However, our Municipal Code standards never envisioned a project of this magnitude. The sheer magnitude, implications, and impacts resulting from HSR require the City to refocus its efforts to assess what additional measures are required to ensure the following: safety, security, compliment to existing street standards, existing surroundings, sound attenuation needs, and infrastructure requirementsBecause CHSRA will use a Design-Build procurement process, it is imperative that the City is positioned to anticipate and address these impacts. In addition to updating the City Standards, Kitchell is also being asked to take the Design Guidelines by Urban Field Studios and develop City Standards that can be followed by a Design Build Contractor. This proposed contract with Kitchell is on a time and material basis in an amount not to exceed $255,000. The work is expected to be completed within 3.5 months. The City team is working with CHSRA to obtain approvals for reimbursement through the existing Reimbursement Agreement.


The total amount in the three proposed contracts total $472,466. Currently, the City has remaining capacity of approximately $232,000 from the Reimbursement Agreement.  We anticipate that should CHSRA approve the proposed work by Kitchell for the City Standards, that the Reimbursement Agreement would have to be amended to cover the additional costs. While the collective proposed costs with the three consultants exceed the current Reimbursement Agreement, given that HSR is one of the City’s Council’s top goals for the year, it is recommended that all three agreements be approved so that the needed work can be completed this summer before HSR’s EIR/EIS report is final. This is important for two reasons: one, the City is trying to influence design alternatives and the environmental report and the work is needed to inform future recommendations; second, CHSRA cannot reimburse for work completed after the EIR/EIS report is completed. 


Finally, the General Plan 2035 provides several policy recommendations or actions relevant to the HSR project including:


Action TR-7.A  High-Speed Rail Design Guidelines.  Prepare design guidelines for the implementation of High Speed Rail within Morgan Hill.  Seek funding for this work from the High Speed Rail Authority.


Policy TR-7.1  Planning for High Speed Rail.  Remain actively engaged in planning efforts for High Speed Rail service to minimize local impacts and ensure that design is consistent with local plans and policies.


Policy TR-7.2  Neighborhood Impacts.  When examining potential impacts of High Speed Rail alternatives and proposals, attention shall be given to all Morgan Hill neighborhoods and mitigation measures shall be proportionate to identified impacts.


Policy TR-7.3 Rail Crossings.  The City recognized that rail crossings are essential to provide connections from neighborhoods to destinations such as schools, parks and services.  The convenience of rail crossings shall be balanced with the need to minimize safety and circulation impacts.


Policy TR-7.4  Preferred Alignment.  The City supports the alignment of High-Speed Rail along Highway 101 within the City of Morgan Hill.  Placement of the High-Speed Rail Alignment through the Downtown should be contrary to the City’s vision and goals for its Downtown as expressed in the General Plan and the Downtown Specific Plan.



COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT:              Inform

HSR has held community open houses in Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and San Jose to present the project and get input on the San Jose to Merced Project Section. The most recent community meeting took place on May 1, 2017 at the Community and Cultural Center. The City of Morgan Hill has a HSR web page that provides basic information on the project and links to HSR staff and website for additional information. The proposed work for the Design Guidelines envisions a collaborative approach with two community meetings.



1.     The Council may choose to proceed with none of the recommended contracts. 

2.     The Council may choose to proceed with one or two of the three recommended contracts.

  1. The Council may choose to wait on updating the City Standards until CHSRA approves the proposed work and amends the Reimbursement Agreement.



On June 1, 2016, the City Council adopted a resolution to enter into the Reimbursement Agreement with the CHSRA for the review of technical engineering documents and consultant agreements with DJP&A and Apex Strategies to support the review of those documents, assist in identifying existing conflicts, and help coordinate with the Authority.  Between June 2016 and December 2016, City Staff attended several working group meetings such as the Technical Working Group, the Community Working Group, and HSR Community meetings.  Staff also held several technical review meetings to understand and provide comments on the existing preliminary alignments.  From this work, an additional alignment was formed, known as the west of Highway 101 alignment.  The CHSRA held a study session with the Council on September 21, 2016, at which the CHSRA introduced its staff, presented the project timeline, and walked the Council through preliminary HSR alignments including the west of Highway 101 alignment for Morgan Hill.


On November 16, 2016, Staff reported back to City Council with the status of the HSR project and received public and Council comments for all preliminary alignments.  The City then mailed out a HSR EIR/EIS Supplemental Scoping letter to CHSRA, on December 9, 2016, confirming the City’s preference for a Highway 101 corridor alignment, outlines community requests and concerns for all preliminary HSR alignments, and provides supplemental information for the HSR EIR/EIS with suggested mitigation measures for the preliminary alignments.



The total amount in the three proposed contracts total $472,466 of which at least $217,466 is anticipated to be covered by the CHSRA Reimbursement Agreement. CHSRA staff has indicated that scope of work for Michael Baker International for $64,026 and Urban Field Studio for $153,440 (total of $217,466) can be reimbursed through the Reimbursement Agreement with CHSRA, which has a current capacity of approximately $232,000A contract with Kitchell to update City Standards is also being recommended for an amount not to exceed $255,000. At this point, we do not know if the City can be reimbursed for this work through the Reimbursement Agreement. CHSRA staff is checking with its legal counsel. If CHSRA agrees to reimburse the City for this work, the Reimbursement Agreement with CHSRA would need to be amended to increase the reimbursement limit. Staff will return if necessary with the appropriate budget amendments.


CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act): 

Not a Project


The three contracts for data collection and guidelines for a future project are defined by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines as Information Collection and are therefore exempt from CEQA per Section 15306 from further environmental review.  The CHSRA is the lead agency for the HSR project and is preparing the EIR/EIS at this time.


Meeting History

May 24, 2017 5:30 PM Video City Council Special - Regular Meeting

Mayor Tate called a recess at 8:24 p.m.

The meeting was reconvened at 8:31 p.m.

Council Member Carr recused himself and left the dais.

Economic Development Director Edith Ramirez provided the report. Ben Tripousis and Gary Kennerley with High Speed Rail provided a project update presentation.

The public comment was opened at 9:54 p.m.

Linda Vrabel was called to speak.

John Horner was called to speak.

Carla Ernest was called to speak.

Linda Cambareri was called to speak.

Kevin Creed was called to speak.

Jan Malles was called to speak.

Roland Lebrun was called to speak.

Sam Diaz was called to speak.

Diane Holmes was called to speak.

Hesham Eassa was called to speak.

Brian Sullivan was called to speak.

Yvonne Martinez was called to speak.

Brian Faircloth was called to speak.

There being no further requests to speak, the public comment was closed.


Approving the recommended action.

MOVER:Rich Constantine, Council Member
SECONDER:Caitlin Jachimowicz, Council Member
AYES:Steve Tate, Rich Constantine, Caitlin Jachimowicz, Rene Spring