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Questions abound over HSR specifics for Caltrain, Peninsula cities

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  • 11/18 Palo Alto Daily
    Published Tuesday, November 18, 2008, by the Palo Alto Daily News Questions abound over high-speed rail Caltrain hopes to form partnership for upgrades on
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 18, 2008
      Published Tuesday, November 18, 2008, by the Palo Alto Daily News

      Questions abound over high-speed rail
      Caltrain hopes to form partnership for upgrades on Peninsula

      By Shaun Bishop
      Daily News Staff Writer

      Now that California voters have ap­proved $10 billion in bonds to help
      pay for a new high-speed passenger rail line, Pen­insula officials are
      trying to sort out what its impact will be on their communities and
      how it will affect area transit service.

      Caltrain has taken particular interest in the passage of Proposition
      1A, the Nov. 4 ballot measure that authorized funding for the Los
      Angeles-to-San Francisco portion of the $45 billion, 800-mile project.

      Caltrain wants to replace its aging diesel locomotives with
      lightweight electrified cars, which will require a $785 million
      overhaul of its infrastructure by 2015. The agency hopes that the
      planned path for the bullet train -- up its right of way between
      San Francisco and San Jose -- means the two rail systems will be
      able to share the cost of upgrading the tracks.

      Officials hope all of Caltrain's advance planning work will make the
      Peninsula a strong candidate to become the first part of the line to
      be built, said spokeswoman Christine Dunn.

      "It's really exciting to think that we could be the first high-speed
      rail project in the country," Dunn said.

      But it will probably take at least two years before the specifics
      of the project -- including its relationship with Caltrain -- are
      defined, said Quentin Kopp, chairman of the Califor­nia High Speed
      Rail Authority's board.

      Kopp, a San Mateo County Superior Court judge, said planners are
      now work­ing on engineering, design and environ­mental documents for
      the eight segments that will make up the route from Los An­geles to
      San Francisco.

      "Up to this point, we've had very lim­ited discussions of a very
      general nature," Dunn said. "I know people are very anx­ious to
      know what's going to happen next and how it's going to impact
      their communities, but a lot of those questions at this point are

      What particularly appeals to Caltrain about the high-speed project
      is the pro­posed widening of its tracks and construction­ of grade
      separations up and down the Peninsula because bullet trains must run
      above or below street level.

      But some local officials are unhappy with the project, saying the
      reworked tracks will displace nearby property owners and endanger
      historic properties.

      The cities of Atherton and Menlo Park in August joined a lawsuit
      challenging the environmental report for the train's route, claiming
      it underestimates the impact it would have on communities.

      Despite elected officials' opposition, Menlo Park voters approved
      the high­speed rail bond measure while Atherton voters struck it
      down, according to unof­ficial election results updated Friday.

      Menlo Park voted 57.4 percent in favor of the project compared to
      42.6 percent opposed out of 14,021 votes cast. Atherton rejected the
      measure with 46 percent in fa­vor to 54 percent against, a margin of
      about 300 votes out of 3,918 cast.

      Critics also question the project's fi­nancing plan and whether its
      price tag will continue to increase, leaving taxpayers to make up
      the difference.

      The authority has not yet secured the rest of the private and federal
      funding needed for the project, but Kopp said he plans to head to
      Washington, D.C., next month to discuss federal funding with members
      of Congress.

      The high-speed rail authority also has yet to decide where the bullet
      train will stop, though Millbrae, Redwood City and Palo Alto have
      been named as potential stops.

      Redwood City Mayor Rosanne Foust said officials in her city will need
      more specifics before they take a position on be­coming a high-speed

      "We need to find out more about it -- what's it mean, what's the time
      frame, what would be the pluses and minuses -- and really understand
      it from a community perspective," Foust said.

      [BATN: See also:

      HSRA chair Kopp wants to end HSR at SF Caltrain terminal

      CA HSR fate lies largely in hands of US Congress now (oink!)

      Editorial: After HSR passes, Menlo Park has soul-searching to do

      HSR bond passes, to the dismay of Menlo Park, Atherton foes

      HSRA may not pay to reach downtown SF Transbay Transit Center

      HSR may help fund Caltrain electrification, full grade separation

      $1.5b Caltrain electrification includes new high-performance trains

      In Menlo Park, big HSR questions remain unanswered

      Palo Alto, Redwood City sit out HSR fight; only one to get a stop

      Redwood City, Palo Alto to vie for mid-Peninsula HSR station

      High density housing may be sought near future CA HSR stations

      HSR may stop in Palo Alto ... or Redwood City ... someday, maybe

      Redwood City council may not want mid-Peninsula HSR stop
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/36901 ]
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