Menlo Park HSR foe Engel says construction may close his street
- Published Saturday, March 6, 2010, by the Palo Alto Daily Post
Rail critic: Homes will be blocked
Temporary tracks may affect Eshoo
By David DeBolt
Daily Post Staff Writer
A critic of high-speed rail says temporary tracks that could be used by Caltrain and freight trains during construction of the bullet-train project would run along the street in front of his house, blocking access to his home as well as that of U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.
Martin Engel said the California High-Speed Rail Authority could build two temporary tracks on the side of the current route to allow Caltrain and Union Pacific freight trains to operate during construction.
Engel said the temporary tracks, or shoo flies, could be necessary along the entire Caltrain route, from San Francisco to San Jose, especially in areas where the width is less than the 85-feet rail authority officials say is the minimum needed to fit four tracks along the right of way.
Jeff Barker, deputy director of the rail authority, says the authority hasn't discussed specific measures to be taken during the construction, but told the Post yesterday that "it's reasonable to assume" that temporary tracks will be used at some places along the route. He said it's too early to know where.
Between Buckthorn Way and Encinal Avenue in Menlo Park, the corridor narrows to 75 feet, according to right-of-way maps obtained by the Post. Assuming high-speed rail needs temporary tracks, homes that abut the tracks to the east, on Felton Drive, could be seized through eminent domain.
Or, what Engel says is a likelier scenario, the temporary tracks will be placed on an existing city street, Stone Pine Lane, where Engel lives.
This would cut off vehicle access to Stone Pine Lane and bring the tracks almost to the doorsteps of the 18 townhouses that face the tracks but are blocked by a fence and a grove of tall trees.
Engel said this option is the cheapest, given that the rail authority wouldn't have to purchase the street because it's owned by the city. Menlo Park and Atherton have filed a lawsuit to stop the $43 billion rail project. Despite the lawsuit, a revised study released Thursday by the rail authority continues to recommend the line travel through the Pacheco Pass and up the Peninsula innstead of the Altamont Pass.
"In our case, are they going to knock our houses down or will they board them up?" Engel asked, adding that he doesn't know yet for sure.
Between the two blocks is Forest Lane. which would be closed off as well if access to Stone Pine were shut off. The court, home to another 18 townhomes, is where Eshoo lives.
In any scenario, the trees that shield residents on Stone Pine Lane from the tracks would be gone. Engel said that will increase noise and reduce the value of the homes. All but one of the homes along that two-block stretch are valued at more than $1 million and one is worth $2.1 million.
[BATN: See also:
Letters: HSR+Caltrain unacceptable; threatened homes; narrow Alma?
Caltrain HSR Compatibility Blog: Caltrain Right Of Way Maps (6 Jan 09)