Published Saturday, January 10, 2009, by the Palo Alto Daily News
Menlo Park-high speed rail negotiations open amid lawsuit
Fighting high-speed rail is top priority
By Mike Rosenberg
Daily News Staff Writer
Five months after joining a lawsuit against the proposed California
high-speed train, Menlo Park officials are launching a negotiation
campaign with the same state body it is suing.
The campaign will be launched Tuesday after the city council last week
voted the high speed rail issue as its top priority for the upcoming
year. The effort will consist of a subcommittee of two city council
members and various city staff officials who will send comments to
and meet with officials from the California High Speed Rail Authority.
The authority's proposed $40 billion bullet train designed to zip
passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2.5 hours by way of
the Caltrain corridor has irked Menlo Park leaders, who feel the
trains will be noisy and may force out property owners along the
rail line. In order to accommodate high-speed trains, two additional
tracks may be added to the currently two-track Caltrain rail line
between San Francisco and San Jose.
Mayor Heyward Robinson said the subcommittee's formation does not
mean the city will pull out of the lawsuit fighting the project's
environmental certification, which Menlo Park and Atherton joined
in August along with several other groups. Instead, officials will
simultaneously negotiate with the High Speed Rail Authority while
remaining a plaintiff in the suit against the state body.
"They're different entirely," Vice Mayor Richard Cline said on the
suit and negotiations. "One is going to be handled from a legal
perspective "... and the second part will be representing our
community and having a dialogue about the (planning process)."
The timing of the new Menlo Park campaign is no accident. Cities and
the public only have from now until March 6 to voice their opinions
on the project before planning begins, as high-speed rail officials
recently opened the public comment period on the Peninsula portion of
the line. Cities will then be unable to comment on the rail line until
after its plans are released, when it will be much more difficult to
change the project.
"We're in a period of time where I think there's still flexibility to
work with (high speed rail) and try to minimize the impacts of the
project," said Public Works Director Kent Steffens, who will likely
be part of the negotiation team.
The project also gained considerable momentum recently when voters
approved state Proposition 1A, a nearly $10 billion bond to help pay
for the rail line. The project, and the city's involvement in it,
was mostly in limbo before the November election, Robinson said.
The city council is expected to create the subcommittee at its
Tuesday meeting but the relationship between city and high speed rail
officials began this week during a meeting between the two parties,
and the negotiations may have started on the wrong track. Cline said
in the meeting high-speed rail officials proposed above-ground tracks
through Menlo Park, a notion to which the city has been opposed. City
leaders want the tracks below grade.
A public meeting will be held in the SamTrans auditorium in San
Carlos from 3 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 22 where the public can share their
pre-planning thoughts on the Peninsula portion of the project.
E-mail Mike Rosenberg at mike.rosenberg@...
[BATN: See also:
HSR bond passes, to the dismay of Menlo Park, Atherton foes
Comment: Lone HSR backer on Menlo Park council explains why
Menlo Park, Atherton vote to oppose Prop. 1A HSR bond
Letter: HSR lawsuit may shift route to other Menlo Park NIMBYs
Where was Menlo Park's public discussion on HSR lawsuit?
NIMBY HSR foes pack Menlo Park study session on HSR
Menlo Park, Atherton residents pack meeting, blast HSR plan
HSR officials to defend EIR in NIMBY Menlo Park on Sept. 9
Letter: Menlo Park should rescind decision to join HSR lawsuit
Editorial: Can NIMBY Menlo Park, Atherton stop HSR juggernaut?
Menlo Park, Atherton join lawsuit to invalidate HSR EIR
Menlo Park, Atherton join suit against Pacheco-biased HSR EIR
Menlo Park, Atherton join suit challenging HSR EIR