Questions abound over HSR specifics for Caltrain, Peninsula cities
- 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
"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
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 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
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