Menlo Park council member: why I'm against Prop. 1A HSR bond
- Published Wednesday, September 24, 2008, by the Menlo Park Almanac
Why I'm voting against the High Speed Rail Initiative
By Rich Cline
California voters are being asked this November to vote on a $10
billion dollar bond to support the initial design of a high-speed
rail (HSR) connecting San Francisco and Sacramento to Los Angeles and
San Diego. The proponents of this measure cite its many potential
benefits: reduced air and automobile congestion, an increase in
construction jobs, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,
increased economic vitality, etc.
I get it. We need more and better transit if we are to stave off the
environmental catastrophe that global warming threatens. And a few
years ago, before my election to the Menlo Park City Council, these
arguments probably would have been enough to convince me to vote in
favor of the bond measure. But I'm not supporting this measure
because there is more to the story.
The city of Menlo Park recently joined the lawsuit challenging the
High Speed Rail Authority's (HSRA) environmental impact report (EIR).
We did so because the EIR did not address our concerns on the
potential impacts to our city. Menlo Park has sent four different
letters, beginning in 2004, requesting answers to our questions.
The only answer that we have received is that our questions will be
addressed in the next EIR -- AFTER the $10 billion HSR bond vote.
Joining the lawsuit appears to be the only way to get the HSRA to
pay attention to our concerns.
The Menlo Park City Council has a right -- no, an obligation -- to
question the effects that this project would have on our community.
Our concerns are typical local land-use and quality-of-life issues.
What is the projected footprint of the project? Will the train be
elevated on a wall, dividing our town in half? What happens to the
homes and businesses that border the tracks? Will any of our four
crossings have to be closed? Can the train be put in a trench or
underground? Where will the train line go during construction? How
much say will Menlo Park and other local jurisdictions have in what
happens in our community? Why can't the train stop in San Jose?
We asked these questions again at a recent study session on high-
speed rail. Once again, we received no answers. Instead, the chairman
of the High Speed Rail Authority, Quentin Kopp, called our study
session "shabby" and "disrespectful." Since when is it shabby and
disrespectful for a local entity to ask questions about a major
project in its community? And why should it cost $10 billion
dollars just to get the basic answers to our community concerns?
Call me a NIMBY if you must. But this is not a case of "Not In My
Back Yard." It is a case of "What Will Be In My Backyard?"
The Menlo Park City Council serves Menlo Park. It is my imperative
to put our city at the forefront. There is just too much at risk
and too little information at this time.
Much more is to come. For now, I'm voting no.
Rich Cline is a Menlo Park council member.