Menlo Park, Atherton vote to oppose Prop. 1A HSR bond
- Published Thursday Sep 25, 2008, by the Palo Alto Daily News
Menlo Park, Atherton want to derail plans for high-speed trains
By Will Oremus
Daily News Staff Writer
In separate resolutions this week, the cities of Menlo Park and
Atherton declared their opposition to Proposition 1A, a November
state ballot measure that would build a high-speed rail line from
Los Angeles to San Francisco and beyond.
The two cities are the only ones in the proposed railroad's path
to take a stand against it, state high-speed rail officials said.
Regional agencies such as Caltrain and SamTrans have endorsed it,
and Millbrae and Palo Alto have expressed interest in having the
train stop in their cities.
The Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday voted 3-1 to oppose
Proposition 1A, which would raise $10 million to start construction
on the 220 mph line. The Atherton City Council followed suit
Wednesday with a 4-0 vote on a similar resolution.
Both city councils said they believe the railroad, which would
require an expansion of the Caltrain tracks, will blight and divide
their communities. But their objections ranged beyond the local
impacts. Both cited a deeper concern about the project's financing,
arguing it will end up costing far more than projected and drawing
far fewer riders.
"In this troubling economic time, we need to see more information
about exactly how the funding mechanism's going to work," said Menlo
Park City Council Member Richard Cline. "We have virtually nothing
Atherton City Council Member Jim Dobbie said, "I suspect that high-
speed rail, as presently planned, has a very high probability of
being a financial disaster, which the state of California taxpayers
will have to pay for."
The cities are doing all they can to stop the train. The formal
resolutions come after both councils voted in closed session to join
a lawsuit against the project's environmental documents. The lawsuit
is spearheaded by groups that had favored an alignment sending trains
through the East Bay rather than up the Peninsula.
The lawsuit will take time, however. Meanwhile, the cities have
turned their attention from the railroad's geographic alignment to
what they see as fundamental flaws in the high-speed rail concept.
At a study session before Wednesday's vote on the resolution, the
Atherton council heard pro-con arguments from high-speed rail
architect Rod Diridon and local opponent Jack Ringham.
As he did in a similar study session earlier this month in Menlo
Park, Diridon laid out the rail line's benefits. In zipping
passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than two-and-a-
half hours, he said, it would ease freeway and air congestion, cut
pollution and keep California competitive in the global market.
It would do all of that, he said, for about $40 billion, with the
state's investment complemented by federal funds and private
Ringham took aim at the projections underpinning those claims. He
said there's no way the train will attract 117 million passengers per
year by 2030. And he called the $55 estimated ticket cost misleading,
noting that the figure is in 2005 dollars.
Atherton's council members, and many residents, appeared swayed by
Ringham's comparisons of the project to Boston's "Big Dig" and other
infrastructure projects that have run way over budget. Several also
said the state should first address other priorities, such as
"I just fail to see a hint of reality" in the California High Speed
Rail Authority's business plan, said Atherton Vice Mayor Jerry
Menlo Park resident Judy Font summarized the objections of many
homeowners in saying, "Many of us feel this project is going to
cause great damage and no benefit to our town."
Atherton resident William Morgan was one of a few who disagreed. He
said high-speed rail would solve a lot of the problems that plague
"It's loud, it wakes people up at night, it's smelly, it kills
people, and you have to wait at street crossings for the trains to go
by," Morgan said. He said the state project represents a "phenomenal
opportunity" because it would include funds to electrify Caltrain and
separate it from cross streets, eliminating dangerous crossings.
Atherton council members Charles Marsala and Kathy McKeithen said
their biggest problem with the project was the lack of information on
exactly how it would affect their town and others on the Peninsula.
The rail authority has completed an environmental report for the
project as a whole, but it won't study the engineering details and
effects on local communities until the bond passes.
Among the unknowns are exactly how many tracks will be needed,
whether they'll be elevated on bridges over cross streets or
submerged in a trench, and how much local property, if any, might
be lost in the Caltrain line's expansion.
Diridon said such details will be worked out in cooperation with
the cities. He pleaded with Atherton officials and residents to
stop "digging your heels in" and instead focus on how to best make
the project work for their city.
"Work with us," he said. "We want to work with you."
Though he disagreed with Diridon on just about everything else,
Ringham agreed that the city probably can't stop the rail bond and
will need to figure out how best to cope with it.
The Atherton council on Wednesday considered a resolution calling for
the train to pass through the city in a trench, but tabled the idea
to avoid watering down its stance against the project as a whole.
ON THE WEB
For more information about the California high-speed rail project,
visit the California High Speed Rail Authority:
E-mail Will Oremus at woremus@...
[BATN: See also:
Menlo Park council member: why I'm against Prop. 1A HSR bond
Comment: Come hear HSR get NIMBY-whipped at Atherton meeting
Atherton council to hold HSR study session on Sept. 24
Editorial: Can NIMBY Menlo Park, Atherton stop HSR juggernaut?
Menlo Park, Atherton join lawsuit to invalidate HSR EIR
Menlo Park, Atherton join suit against Pacheco-biased HSR EIR
Menlo Park, Atherton join suit challenging HSR EIR
Atherton, Menlo Park councils blast high-speed rail plans
Atherton worried by Caltrain, high-speed rail plans
Atherton stunned high speed rail may take property (7 May 04)
Atherton meeting to focus on Caltrain, high-speed rail (28 Apr 04)
Letter: Atherton wrong to oppose high-speed rail (5 Nov 03)
Atherton to create panel to fight high-speed trains (22 Oct 03)
Atherton officials vow to fight high-speed rail (5 May 03)