Atherton worried by Caltrain, high-speed rail plans
- Published Wednesday, May 12, 2004, in the Menlo Park Almanac
Atherton talks trains
Big worries about big projects in railroad's future.
By Andrea Gemmet
Almanac Staff Writer
Atherton officials have trains on the brain. Worries about how
electrification, high-speed rail, and grade-separation projects
could affect the character of the town consumed the bulk of the
May 6 town meeting hosted by the Atherton Civic Interest League.
On the horizon, but undeniably heading this way, are major changes
that could spell a big increase in the number of trains hurtling
through town and necessitate major construction projects -- and the
possibility of private property being taken to accommodate an
additional set of train tracks for high-speed rail service from Los
Angeles, according to Chuck Harvey, Caltrain's chief operating
officer, and Atherton Councilman Jim Janz.
Mr. Harvey delivered a high-speed presentation on the massive, $25
billion project to create high-speed rail service that could take
passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2-1/2 hours.
He noted that although trains would likely slow from a top speed of
300 mph to about 120 mph through the heavily populated Peninsula,
grade-separation projects such as the one at 5th Avenue in Redwood
City, would be necessary to prevent trains from tangling with
vehicle traffic. Mr. Janz said town officials are currently working
with Caltrain engineers to research grade-separation projects for
Atherton's railroad crossings.
The alternative to grade separations is to block a road, making it
dead-end at the tracks, something the Atherton council opposed in
"We want to find out what's feasible," Mr. Janz said, warning:
"We're far from having any conclusions on what we want our position
Although the funding for both electrification and high-speed rail
is far from secure, and proposed start dates are years away,
environmental impact reports for both projects are currently
circulating, said Mr. Janz.
The Atherton council opposed the electrification of Caltrain in
1998, but hasn't taken a more recent position.
A question from the audience during a panel discussion, which also
featured former state Public Utilities Commission president Greg
Conlon and former Atherton Councilman Malcolm Dudley, highlighted
a potential conflict in the electrification and high-speed rail
projects. Grade-separation work to accommodate high-speed rail would
have to be ripped up and redone to accommodate electrification, Mr.
Currently, the preferred option is for the rail service to go
through the entire Peninsula along the Caltrain right-of-way, which
would have to be expanded to accommodate a second pair of train
tracks, with land purchased from adjacent property owners.
"The current right-of-way is not sufficient," said Mr. Harvey.
However, Mr. Janz cautioned that an alternate route, which would
bring trains across the Bay along the Dumbarton rail bridge,
bypassing Atherton, is still a possibility, as is the potential for
high-speed rail to share existing tracks with local commuter trains.
He said Atherton should work with neighboring cities to make sure
high-speed rail service doesn't turn out to be detrimental to the
communities they pass through. He suggested that running the trains
underground might be a good solution.
Atherton is fresh from a partial victory over proposed service cuts
in Caltrain's new spring schedule, which kicks off in June. Lobbying
efforts restored regular weekend service to the town's historic
station and fewer cuts to weekday service.
"We didn't get all we wanted, but our message was heard. Now it's up
to people in town to demonstrate it by using the service," Mr. Janz
[BATN: See also:
Atherton stunned high speed rail may take property
Atherton meeting to focus on Caltrain, high-speed rail
Atherton eyes CEQA to block Caltrain service plan
Atherton cites CEQA in bid to fight Caltrain plan
Caltrain "reality" not pretty for Atherton
Atherton residents: axe Caltrain Bullet, hike fares
Atherton to hold meeting on Caltrain service plans
Atherton fights to avoid any Caltrain service cuts
Atherton newsletter on proposed Caltrain schedule
Atherton fights Caltrain cuts to little-used stop
Atherton lobbies to keep its Caltrain service up
Atherton panel says "we deserve" Caltrain service
Petition opposes Atherton Caltrain service cut
Editorial: Caltrain should give Atherton a break
Atherton panel gears up to protest Caltrain plans
Caltrain schedule proposal concerns Atherton
Caltrain may slash Atherton service; input sought
Caltrain may sharply cut Atherton service
Letter: Atherton wrong to oppose high-speed rail
Atherton to create panel to fight high-speed trains
Atherton puts Caltrain grade seps on its wish list
Atherton officials vow to fight high-speed rail
Atherton residents oppose Caltrain corridor plans