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Comment: Come hear HSR get NIMBY-whipped at Atherton meeting

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  • 9/24 Menlo Park Almanac
    Published Wednesday, September 24, 2008, by the Menlo Park Almanac Comment Hear pros, cons of high-speed rail at Atherton meeting By Jerry Carlson Atherton and
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 24, 2008
      Published Wednesday, September 24, 2008, by the Menlo Park Almanac


      Hear pros, cons of high-speed rail at Atherton meeting

      By Jerry Carlson

      Atherton and area residents are invited to attend a special study
      session, on Proposition 1A, High-Speed Rail bonds, sponsored by
      the Atherton Town Council, on Sept. 24, beginning at 6 p.m., in the
      Holbrook-Palmer Park Pavilion [BATN: Holbrook-Palmer Park is located
      between Middlefield Road and El Camino Real at 150 Watkins Avenue.]

      Proposition 1A will provide $9.95 billion of funding from general
      obligation bonds, of which $9 billion will be used towards the
      construction of a two-track high-speed (200 mph) rail line. The
      initial line will run from Los Angeles to San Jose and then on to
      San Francisco along the Caltrain corridor. The remaining $950 million
      will be used for connections to BART and transportation systems.

      The purpose of the study session is to give our residents the
      opportunity to hear experts giving pro and con views on the bond
      measure. Although many of the project details are still to be worked
      out, the study session will cover much of the available information.

      Proponents will present the benefits California will get by moving
      out of the "horse and buggy" transportation mode we now have and
      why we need to follow the lead of the Europeans and Asians in
      implementing a high-speed rail system. Some of the positives include
      safer, faster and greener mode of transportation. Another benefit
      is to not have to build as many roads and airports, in the future,
      for California's expected growth.

      The project will be the single largest public works project in
      California's history. The construction alone will benefit
      contractors, developers and consultants, and add many construction
      union jobs.

      On the other hand, this project will use state borrowing resources
      that could be used on other priorities. Opponents will raise
      questions about the project's underlying financial and ridership
      assumptions citing other project examples of significant cost
      overruns and revenues shortfalls. The state will have to pay out
      over $19 billion in principle and interest over 30 years. If the
      rail system does not generate profits the general fund will have
      to provide

      These dollars as well as make up any short falls needed to cover
      operating deficits.

      What will be the benefits and impacts for Atherton and the Peninsula
      in the long run? We can make some guesses about the construction
      impacts in the short run. It is probable a 30-foot berm will be
      built in the right-of-way to hold four to six sets of rails.
      During construction, two sets of tracks will be needed along the
      construction zone to keep current trains operating. This will most
      likely require exercising eminent domain through Atherton and Menlo
      Park to obtain the necessary right-of-way width.

      Construction will involve closing streets crossing the rail corridor
      and enduring heavy truck traffic carrying construction materials to
      the work area. How long the round the clock construction will take
      is not yet known.

      Proponents may suggest that Menlo Park and Atherton's portion of
      the route could be handled by a tunnel or trench. But there are no
      guarantees at this time that this will be a viable option. There are
      no guarantees that all our street crossings will be reopened after
      construction. Do we trust that the end result will be something that
      we should vote for?

      You won't hear answers to all your questions but by coming to the
      study session you will receive the latest information available
      that may help you decide about Proposition 1A. The council will be
      very interested in hearing your comments, as well.

      Jerry Carlson is vice mayor of Atherton
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