Following Orange's lead, Belmont to ponder resolution opposing HSR
- Published Tuesday, August 10, 2010, by the San Mateo Daily Journal
City may oppose rail project
By Bill Silverfarb
Daily Journal staff
Belmont is ready to take strong action following a California High-Speed Rail Authority meeting in San Francisco last week where it was revealed underground solutions are off the table for most cities on the Peninsula.
Belmont's City Council may oppose the project outright as the Southern California city of Orange did two weeks ago.
The council will discuss a potential resolution outlining Belmont's position on high-speed rail at its meeting tonight and will use a resolution passed by Orange as a possible template.
Orange officially opposes the construction of high-speed rail based on inflated ridership and revenue projections and the potential for property takings.
Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach is ready to follow Orange's lead.
"I think we need to have guts and stand up to the bureaucrats," said Feierbach, who put the item on tonight's agenda.
She hopes other cities will be prompted by Belmont's action, too.
"This is a real divisive thing for our town," she said.
The authority revealed Thursday that alignment options for Belmont do not include any underground alternatives and that the line will run above ground, likely on an elevated viaduct.
Wozniak attended the rail meeting last week and urged the board to keep the tunneling option alive in Belmont. The council may also direct staff tonight to position "story poles" near the tracks to show the potential height of the rail project in the city.
Story poles are used in planning and development to show the height and volume of proposed structures in relation to their surroundings, according to Wozniak.
Councilman Warren Lieberman has concerns about what the elevated option might look like but said the council has yet to have any real meaningful discussions on the topic.
He anticipates the council having an extended discussion before it considers a resolution stating the city's position on the project.
While the aesthetics of an elevated option is a serious concern for the city, Councilman Dave Warden also has concerns about how the project will impact the city economically.
"Is it going to destroy the transportation corridor in the heart of the city? People should see the scope and how it is going to change the character of the city," Warden said.
He also expects the authority to pay the city if it suffers financially because of the project.
"If they are going to cram this down our throats, then they are going to pay for the economic damages to the city. It is essentially eminent domain," Warden said.
Lieberman still has reservations as to whether the line will actually run to San Francisco.
"I wouldn't say it is inevitable. There are still challenges to overcome," Lieberman said.
Warden said the trains should run up Highway 101 and not on the Caltrain corridor.
The rail authority is planning a route with electrified bullet trains traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco and has been criticized for speedily getting the project shovel-ready to secure more federal funding. The project was awarded $2.5 billion in federal funding in May and state voters approved a nearly $10 billion bond in a November 2008 election to build the project. The estimated cost is expected to be more than $40 billion, although critics say that number could double.
The authority also applied for a $1billion federal grant Friday for electrification of the Caltrain line and the construction of a new train station in Millbrae.
Judge Quentin Kopp, who sits on the authority's nine-member board, said if Belmont does pass a resolution opposing the project, it would have no legal effect.
"We have a legal duty to continue until and unless the Legislature or governor say otherwise," Kopp said. "I'm not critical of the City Council, though, because I understand the politics and earnestness behind it."
Feierbach understands the city adopting a resolution opposing the project will be largely ceremonial.
"It will probably have no effect," Feierbach said. "But maybe other cities will follow."
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: silverfarb@... or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.
[BATN: See also:
Atherton sets Aug. 24 council vote on resolution opposing HSR
Some Peninsula cities may be urged to join Orange in opposing HSR
CA HSR Blog: Orange Is At It Again
Orange City Council passes resolution opposing HSR construction
UK transport chief: local communities cannot be allowed a HSR veto