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CHSRA officials brush off UPRR refusal to sell ROW for HSR

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  • 6/4 Oakland Triubune
    Published Wednesday, June 4, 2008, by the Oakland Tribune Union Pacific Railroad balks at selling land for bullet train By Erik N. Nelson Oakland Tribune
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4 3:16 PM
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      Published Wednesday, June 4, 2008, by the Oakland Tribune

      Union Pacific Railroad balks at selling land for bullet train

      By Erik N. Nelson
      Oakland Tribune

      Possibly complicating efforts to build a high-speed rail system in
      California, Union Pacific Railroad <http://www.up.com> has told the
      state's High-Speed Rail Authority <http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov>
      it won't sell its rights-of-way for the planned 700-mile bullet train
      network.

      In a letter <http://tinyurl.com/5pj8gr> dated May 13, an executive
      for the Omaha-based freight hauler wrote that the company "does not
      feel it is Union Pacific's best interest to have any proposed
      alignment located on Union Pacific's rights-of-way."

      "We've always had to safeguard our right-of-way for expansion, not
      only with the high-speed but also with the commuter rail operations,"
      explained the railroad's spokesman Mark Davis. "It's an issue across
      the entire system."

      As skyrocketing diesel prices have made shipping by truck more
      expensive, there's pressure on the nation's freight rail network
      to move more goods on a system that has done more contracting than
      expanding in the last half-century.

      "I can never say 'never,' but what I can tell you is that right now
      is that our infrastructure is at or near capacity," Davis said.

      Authority officials say the statement, which was echoed by
      representatives of the other major freight railroad serving
      California, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, would have little or no
      impact on the $43 billion plan to run 200-plus-mph trains between
      the Bay Area, Sacramento and Southern California.

      "We've never assumed that we would take the railroad right-of-way,"
      said Mehdi Morshed, the authority's executive director. He added
      that the system's planned routes "have always been adjacent to them,
      but not necessarily on, their right-of-way."

      Quentin Kopp, chairman of the authority's governing board, insisted
      that the letter was insignificant: "We had expected this, and we knew
      about this for months. It doesn't in any way delay or deter us."

      The development seemed to convince some of the authority's critics
      that -- that the authority's environmental study for the Bay Area
      was fatally flawed because it banks on using the freight carriers'
      rights-of-way.

      "The study's invalid because they have all these rights-of-way that
      they have no access to," said Richard Tolmach, president of the
      Sacramento-based California Rail Foundation <http://calrailnews.com>.

      Tolmach and others from the Sacramento area and San Joaquin Valley,
      while favoring the high-speed rail network, have criticized the
      authority for its December decision to run the bullet train through
      Gilroy and the Pacheco Pass -- rather than through the more
      developed Livermore Valley and Altamont Pass.

      Tolmach also charged that high-speed rail backers have claimed that
      the freight railroad land would be available as part of their effort
      to drum up support for a $10 billion high-speed rail bond measure
      voters are to decide in November.

      Authority board member Rod Diridon said in a voice message that
      "Union Pacific will have to figure out a way to deal with what is
      best for the public," and that the public need will prevail in the
      end.

      He also suggested that Union Pacific's refusal to work with high-
      speed rail was "a very firm foundation from which to begin the
      negotiations."

      Morshed said that railroads often balk at selling their land, but
      have a history of changing that position when it suits their
      corporate interests.


      Contact Erik Nelson at enelson@... or 510-208-6410 and
      read the Capricious Commuter blog at http://ibabuzz.com/transportation


      [BATN: See also:

      8-group coalition blasts HSRA on Pacheco vs. Altamont route pick
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/37623 ]
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