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HSR officials extend SF-SJ comment period 1 month until April 6

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  • 2/18 Palo Alto Daily
    Published Wednesday, February 18, 2009, by the Palo Alto Daily News Rail skeptics win time extension By Will Oremus Daily News Staff Writer Responding to a
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 18, 2009
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      Published Wednesday, February 18, 2009, by the Palo Alto Daily News

      Rail skeptics win time extension

      By Will Oremus
      Daily News Staff Writer

      Responding to a growing chorus of calls for more public input,
      California high-speed rail officials on Tuesday agreed to extend by
      a month the environmental planning process for the San Jose-to-San
      Francisco portion of the line. Residents and officials worried about
      the 125-mile-per-hour trains' impact on Peninsula neighborhoods
      will now have until April 6 to lodge their comments, concerns and
      suggestions as to what the environmental analysis should take into
      account.

      The move came on a day when more than 100 Palo Alto residents packed a
      school board conference room for a question-and-answer session about
      the project. Dozens signed a petition stating they were "unequivocally
      opposed to elevation of the tracks in residential neighborhoods" and
      calling for a popular vote to ratify the California High Speed Rail
      Authority's plans for the Caltrain corridor. A few called for Palo
      Alto to join neighboring cities Menlo Park and Atherton in a lawsuit
      challenging the authority's decision to run the tracks up the
      Peninsula rather than through the East Bay.

      Though Peninsula voters generally favored the $40 billion Los Angeles-
      to-San Francisco project in a November bond measure, anxiety is
      growing among those close to the Caltrain tracks, fueled by rumors of
      eminent domain takings and 40-foot-high electrical lines. Some are
      pushing for the rail authority to put the tracks underground, others
      for the line to stop in San Jose, forcing passengers to transfer to
      Caltrain to reach San Francisco.

      The authority, meanwhile, is trying to reassure residents that it will
      listen to them before making any final decisions. Dan Leavitt, deputy
      director of the California High Speed Rail Authority, said the current
      comment period is only the first of several on the path to eventual
      approval of the environmental documents. He said the authority will
      use the extension to sponsor additional information meetings in
      several cities.

      "The Peninsula has always been pretty supportive of this notion" of
      high-speed rail, Leavitt said. "The key is they want to make sure
      it's done in a way that benefits their communities, and we believe
      it will."

      The extension came in response to a formal request from Palo Alto
      Mayor Peter Drekmeier. He was echoing calls for more time from
      Council Member Yoriko Kishimoto and officials in other cities.

      Kishimoto said she was pleased with the authority's decision. "I
      think it shows they're being responsive to public concerns. It
      will definitely help us with putting together a more comprehensive
      response" to the authority's request for input on the scope of the
      upcoming environmental study. "Staff is going to be scrambling to put
      together a fairly detailed technical response, involving everything
      from public works to utilities. I'm sure all the cities face that
      same challenge."

      In fact, Atherton this week is submitting a 28-page letter detailing
      its concerns, including a request to send the tracks through an
      underground tunnel rather than lifting them above residential cross
      streets. High-speed rail has been the subject of contentious meetings
      there and in Menlo Park since early last year, a time when it hardly
      registered on the radar of officials and residents in Palo Alto.

      In many other cities, there is still no controversy. A presentation
      by high-speed rail officials at a Burlingame City Council meeting
      Tuesday drew little comment from either residents or council members.

      Palo Alto, along with Redwood City, faces an additional question
      beyond how to integrate high-speed trains with the residential
      neighborhoods: whether to compete for one of two potential Peninsula
      stops on the line. Millbrae, with its proximity to San Francisco
      International Airport, is a shoo-in for the other stop.

      Some at Tuesday's meeting expressed reservations at the prospect of
      a major station in Palo Alto, which could require an 800-car parking
      garage and serve as a focal point for high-density development. Sara
      Armstrong, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, worried
      a Palo Alto station could endanger El Palo Alto, the historic redwood
      tree that gave the city its name.

      Leavitt said that while it's good for residents to help shape the
      design of the line, they shouldn't forget that it presents benefits
      as well as challenges. It will reduce air pollution and traffic, make
      the Caltrain line more safe by eliminating crossings, and be quieter
      than Caltrain's diesel-powered trains. "I think that's why, if you
      look at the vote on high-speed rail, the Peninsula was one of the
      most positive in the state," he said.

      The next high-speed rail meeting in Palo Alto will be on Feb. 26 at
      Mitchell Park Community Center, 3800 Middlefield Road.


      [BATN: See also:

      Atherton wants HSR underground -- prepares 28-page letter
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40509

      Palo Alto HSR NIMBYs to march on City Hall
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40491

      Palo Alto Prop 1A backers horrified to learn HSR may run near them!
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40466

      Letter: NIMBY Palo Alto HSR foes spreading misinformation
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40461

      Column: Peninsula NIMBYs raise the alarm over HSR
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40460

      Palo Alto NIMBYs fear HSR eminent domain
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40436

      Palo Alto NIMBYs raise alarm on HSR eminent domain fears
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40435

      Comment: Caltrain meets HSR -- what implications for Palo Alto?
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40397

      Peninsula residents skeptical about HSR
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40396

      Menlo Park starts HSR negotiation campaign, to continue lawsuit
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40223

      Questions abound over HSR specifics for Caltrain, Peninsula cities
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39971

      HSR bond passes, to the dismay of Menlo Park, Atherton foes
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39915

      Comment: HSR will disrupt Menlo Park; vote no on Prop 1A
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39509

      Prop 1A bond would launch plan for HSR along Caltrain corridor
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39508

      Cities divided; HSR may help Caltrain electrification
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39502

      Comment: Undergrounding Caltrain in Palo Alto an old idea
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39475

      Editorial: Undergrounding Caltrain, HSR tracks worth exploring
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39431

      Palo Alto leaders propose putting Caltrain, HSR underground
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39430 ]
      E-mail Will Oremus at woremus@...
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