The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board on Wednesday chose Pacheco Pass as the preferred California high-speed rail route, meaning passenger trains traveling up to 220 miles per hour between San Francisco and Los Angeles could zoom through Menlo Park, Atherton, and other Peninsula cities in as soon as 10 years if a bond measure passes in November.
Under the plan, high-speed trains would connect to Gilroy from the Central Valley, and shoot up and down the Caltrain Corridor to connect to San Francisco.
If the project is built, it would require grade separations -- separating the Caltrain tracks from the roadway at key intersections -- and years of construction and traffic impacts as additional tracks are added for the faster trains.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board selected the route at its Dec. 19 meeting in Sacramento. No vote was taken, but there was no objection to selecting Pacheco Pass as the preferred route, said Dan Leavitt, high-speed rail authority deputy director.
Politicians and environmental groups point to high-speed rail as a big step toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions. They see high-speed trains as an environmentally friendly alternative to congested freeways and air travel, and vital to accommodating the state's growing population.
The trains would whisk passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. As proposed, the high-speed rail network would eventually stretch from San Diego to Sacramento.
But the fate of the project, estimated to cost more than $40 billion by the rail authority, still depends on a $10 billion bond measure slated for the November ballot.
With the state's deficit, the state Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have pulled off the ballot past high-speed rail bond measures, and the same could still happen this time around.
If the bond measure stays on the ballot and passes, Mr. Leavitt said, the connection from Los Angeles to San Francisco would be the first segment to be built. Assuming the state receives matching federal funds, additional local funds, and donations from the private sector, trains could be up and running in 10 years, he said.
Critics of the project say costs will skyrocket far above the estimated $40 billion, and construction, noise, and traffic impacts will seriously affect nearby homes and businesses.