Comment: Come hear HSR get NIMBY-whipped at Atherton meeting
- 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
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
These dollars as well as make up any short falls needed to cover
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