Peninsula HSR alignment report delayed again until April 1
- Published Tuesday, February 23, 2010, by the San Mateo County Times
Bay Area high-speed rail track alignment details delayed again
By Mike Rosenberg
San Mateo County Times
The planners responsible for the Bay Area section of the high-speed rail line have again delayed the release of a report detailing whether the bullet train could rocket along the Caltrain route underground, on raised tracks or not at all.
The alternatives analysis for the San Francisco to San Jose section of the state's bullet train had last fall been pegged for a December release before being postponed to March 4.
But the California High-Speed Rail Authority board will not hear the report until April 1 at the earliest because agency officials are still reviewing the plan, Deputy Director Jeff Barker said Tuesday.
The report will include the first new information released for the Bay Area since a Sept 30 precursor to the alternatives analysis.
At that time, planners said the track alignments they would study to accommodate both Caltrain and high-speed rail included underground tunnels and trenches, street level and raised structures. Other more unorthodox ideas to be looked at included stacking tracks two-by-two, running bullet trains below ground with Caltrain above, or shortening high-speed rail from Los Angeles to San Jose instead of San Francisco.
But since then, residents and local officials, particularly on the Peninsula, have clamored for precious details, particularly the likelihood of trains running underground. During two packed "sneak peek" alternatives analysis meetings in Palo Alto and Menlo Park during the past two weeks, project managers again presented little new information.
Project critics have already feared the authority would zoom through the planning process, and now the start date for public input has again been pushed back while the finish line appears unlikely to budge. The White House last month gave the state a $2.25 billion stimulus grant that will disappear unless construction starts by September 2012.
In telling Project Manager Tony Daniels of the postponement, Deputy Director Dan Leavitt said in an e-mail: "This should not cause any delay in the ongoing project-level work, and you are expected to make every attempt possible to maintain your current schedule of work."
The cities and residents will have 45 days to comment on the report once the authority publishes it, although some officials are asking for more time. There will be at least two subsequent, more detailed reports with chances for public comment before construction.
Meanwhile, the rail authority does expect to release a revised version of a 2007 report the board recently rescinded after being sued by Menlo Park, Atherton and four environmental groups.
Barker said the authority hopes to release the revised Bay Area to Central Valley program-level environmental impact report on March 4. There will also be 45 days to comment on that study, which selected the Pacheco Pass route over the Altamont Pass.
No major changes are expected, though. The board voided the document after a Sacramento judge last fall ordered the authority to further study two areas: vibration and track use from San Jose to Gilroy. Since then, the authority has been doing that research while working on advanced planning such as the alternatives analysis.
Mike Rosenberg covers San Mateo, Burlingame, Belmont and transportation. Contact him at 650-348-4324.
[BATN: See also:
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