Published Saturday, February 20, 2010, by the Palo Alto Daily Post
Residents rail over train plan
Home-grab report's release postponed
By Diana Diamond
Daily Post Associate Editor
Angry Menlo Park and Atherton residents bombarded high-speed rail officials yesterday with questions about the wisdom of the new rail line up the Peninsula, and officials announced they were delaying a key report showing which homes might have to be seized to build the project.
They questioned the project's $42 billion cost, why different routes could not be considered, and why the train simply could not terminate in San Jose, with passengers then taking a Caltrain bullet train up to San Francisco.
Some of their questions were answered, but the rest would be handled in a draft report on route alternatives, according to Dominic Spaethling, regional general manager for the high speed system. The report was scheduled to come out March 4 but will be delayed by a week or two, he, said.
And even the answers provided did not always seem to please the approximately 100 residents who attended this first public meeting on the proposed high-speed system in more than a year.
Tim Cobb, the authority's project manager for this area, was asked about rights of way along the track and whether additional room would be needed for a detour for Caltrain when the tracks are under consideration.
According to a hazy map Cobb provided, with audience members saying they couldn't see, read or understand it, the current track width runs from 60 feet to almost 100 feet through Menlo Park and Atherton. The 60- to 75-foot portions are narrow and would have to be expanded, he suggested.
Residents offered a variety of suggestions to the high-speed officials.
"Having the high-speed system terminate in San Jose would be so easy, and you would save so much money and not interrupt the cities along the Peninsula," said Phyllis Butler.
Spaethling said that possibility would be "studied as part of the process" but several in the audience complained that that was no answer, and asked whether the San Jose termination was a real alternative that would appear in the alternative report.
The alternatives under consideration by the High-Speed Rail Authority are whether the tracks should be at grade level, go underground or on a berm or a platform above ground.
"It seems to me, Menlo resident Frank Carney said, "that you and we know it can't be at grade level, so the two remaining alternatives are above or below ground. Terminating in San Jose should be the third alternative."
On a different subject, residents were told they will be asked to participate in a process called "Context Sensitive Solutions," whereby groups of residents will gather and analyze the proposals with the purpose of reaching consensus that will be included in a report that goes to the authority's board.
But even that idea met with a lot of resistance.
Alan Bushnell, a Menlo Park resident said, "You are asking us to participate in these meetings which I think will be a charade -- and they will simply give cover to a resolution that the (high-speed) board has already been made about this train and its tracks."
But the CSS consultant said by being engaged residents will have a better system. There are many local issues, such as the narrow width of the existing tracks in San Mateo, that need the opinions of residents.
Spaethling was asked about looking at other alternatives, such as running the train along 280 or 101. But those each had problems, he said, because of the curvature of the road, which is "not conducive to high-speed rail. It was ruled out as an option."
Menlo Park Mayor Richard Cline told Spaethling that when two authority board members, Rod Diridon and Quentin Kopp, last appeared before Menlo Park City Council, council members were told they will not consider any other routes." As to the rights-of-way maps, Spaethling had been asked for them for the past several months and at a similar meeting in Palo Alto he promised Mayor Pat Burt to try to get it to him the next day."
[BATN: See also:
HSRA denies it has eminent domain maps sought by Palo Alto