Simitian hopes HSR audit is wake-up call; report backs Altamont HSR
- Published Tuesday, May 4, 2010, by the Palo Alto Daily Post
Simitian hopeful despite rail flaws
By David DeBolt
Daily Post Staff Writer
State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said yesterday he still hopes that high-speed rail can be done right, even though the state auditor found that the project's business plan is shaky and vague and that the railroad might never get finished.
Simitian and Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, sit on a Transportation and Housing subcommittee that controls funding for the high-speed rail authority. Simitian yesterday said there were "no big surprises" in the auditor's report and it reinforced arguments already raised by residents and state lawmakers.
"I hope the report serves as wake-up call," Simitian told the Post yesterday.
"I have been concerned for some time that the Authority has had trouble transitioning from a promotional agency to an organization that can manage a project of this magnitude," Lowenthal said.
New legal move
Meanwhile, the lawyers whose suit forced the California High-Speed Rail Authority to re-do its environmental report for the 800-mile, $43 billion train, are preparing to reopen the case this week, said David Schonbrunn, president of Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund <http://transdef.org>. That suit -- filed by an attorney representing Atherton and Menlo Park -- challenged the rail authority's plans to run the 125-mph trains through the Peninsula instead of the East Bay.
Today, a group of environmental organizations backed by Peninsula mayors will unveil a report outlining the benefits of running high-speed rail trains through the Altamont Corridor <http://transdef.org/HSR/Altamont.html>.
Schonbrunn yesterday said the corridor along Interstate 580 in the East Bay would run along the highway and in tunnels and save the California High-Speed Rail Authority from seizing homes along the Peninsula.
"It's never had a serious review," Schonbrunn said yesterday. "The High-Speed Rail Authority has resisted it every step of the way for the last 10 years. That's probably because it makes too much sense."
This comes on the heels of a state audit released last week, which criticized the rail authority for having optimistic funding plans, a vague business plan and weak oversight" of the project. Schonbrunn said running high-speed rail trains on the Altamont Corridor will provide much needed connections between the Bay Area and the Central Valley, linking cities such as Tracy to San Francisco.
The environmental groups, which include Transdef, California Rail Foundation and Planning and Conservation League, have hired French consultant Setec Ferroviaire <http://www.setec.fr/FO/EN> to produce the report <http://tinyurl.com/22nnsu4>.
Under current plans, the corridor between San Francisco and San Jose runs along the Caltrain right of way.
The reasons the environmentalists prefer the Altamont route include:
* Avoids creating additional sprawl in Santa Clara and Merced counties.
* Addresses congestion on Interstates 80, 880, 580 and 680.
* Generates higher ridership than the Pacheco route because it serves the East Bay.
[BATN: See also:
State Auditor's report largely mirrors LAO report, HSRA says
Report by French rail experts backs Altamont Pass HSR route