News

Menlo Park, Atherton file new legal challenge to California High-Speed Rail Authority

Coalition of rail critics seeks to start new debate over rail alignment

Menlo Park, Atherton and a coalition of environmental groups filed a new legal challenge against the California High-Speed Rail Authority Thursday afternoon, seeking to force the agency to reconsider its Bay Area alignment for the controversial rail line.

The coalition includes the groups Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (TRANSDEF), California Rail Foundation and the Planning and Conservation League.

It filed a petition in the Sacramento County Superior Court arguing that the ridership model the authority relied on to choose the Pacheco Pass as its preferred alignment has serious flaws and that the agency's choice needs to be revisited.

The groups ask the court to reopen the lawsuit they filed against the authority in 2008. As a result of that lawsuit, the court ordered the rail authority to decertify its environmental analysis for the rail system and revise sections, including those relating to noise and vibration impacts.

But Judge Michael Kenney also upheld the rail authority's choice of Pacheco Pass as the preferred alignment.

With the new petition, the plaintiffs ask Kenney to revisit that decision. They point to information recently uncovered by Palo Alto-based watchdog group, Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD) indicating that the rail authority's comprehensive Environmental Impact Report relied on a ridership model that had not been publicly disclosed or peer reviewed.

CARRD also obtained a memo from Cambridge Systematics, the rail authority's transportation consultant, acknowledging that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which funded the ridership study, elected not to include all the details about the revised ridership model in its final report.

Stuart Flashman, the attorney representing the coalition, argued in the court filing that the new evidence suggests that the ridership model is flawed and that the rail authority needs to take a new look at its Bay Area options for the rail line, estimated to cost about $43 billion.

"The flaws call into question the validity of the modeling results included in the (Program Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statements), and the soundness of the alignment decision made by Respondent in reliance on those results," Flashman wrote.

Flashman also argued that because MTC chose not to publicize the details of its revised ridership model, no one had a chance to review it and point out its "inadequacies." As a result, even the rail authority's board of directors was unaware of the problems with the model.

"As a consequence of the concealment of the final model and its flaws, petitioners have been deprived of the opportunity to present this issue to Respondent or to the Court, making the trial of this case, and the resulting judgment, unfair," Flashman wrote.

David Schonbrunn, president of TRANSDEF, told the Weekly on Thursday that the suit seeks to reopen the agencies' prior lawsuit and revisit the issue of Pacheco vs. Altamont. The petition argues that the flawed ridership model skewed date toward Pacheco, an alternative that relies on the Caltrain Corridor on the Peninsula. The plaintiffs prefer the Altamont Pass route in the East Bay.

Schonbrunn said the group expressed its concerns about the Pacheco route as part of its comments on the revised EIR. But he said the plaintiffs expect the rail authority to only address comments pertaining to the sections that were revised.

"We're asking the court for remedial action because this information has been hidden," Schonbrunn said. "We're asking that (the rail authority) be ordered to respond to our comments about the failings of the model."

Comments

Posted by R.Gordon, a resident of another community
on May 7, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Where does gubernatorial aspirant Meg Whitman stand on the issue?
I know Ahnold is progressive enough in his Teutonic positive for building a future mind, that he is for the HSR.
What is so peculiar about the obstinance this entire area served by the ALMANAC and its good coverage, that people just do not seem to think outside of the area and what is going on in the world including the possibility that America will be too broke to even take care of those who survive the wars abroad; not to mention the oil spillage at 200,000 barrels a day, 1000 point drops in a day in the stock market and the reality of life. HSR is officially on the back burner although it could definitely help those unemployed in California and losing their homes even more rapidly as job losses increase.
Are you all infused or inebriated by some Pollyanna complex? Just relax, and I can guarantee that the San Andreas fault will probably be shaking down your homes long before we drive in the first spike or whatever they are going to use when it is eventually done.
It is really a bore to have to listen to such old fashioned thinking about your precious communities, which could look 10 times worse than the flooded areas of Nashville, and poor Louisiana and the rest of the world.
Those who still worry about noise and property values as a result of wanting to keep things like OUR TOWN, just HAVE TO continually go on bitching about progress and keep nagging us about preserving Jackling house, and an ancient way of life which serves no purpose for the young who will be doing EVERYTHING differently and care less about preserving our past....even the tacky examples of it.
The Silicon Valley, and the banking which created all the money minded population (many lost) and the amount of foreclosed properties which prove the U.S. is not what we hoped it would turn out to be; no matter what crises ensued.
I presume that most of you who get on these issues are really not that educated or concerned that humanely about the people outside this stretch of wealth, or the "money belt", either because you fall into the over 50 but mainly 65 categories and feel you must fill your time rather than donating your efforts to the poor, the jobless, the homeless, and think it could never happen to you.
No quick face lift for you.
Just stop all progress and save the decaying houses built after the invention of Coca Cola.
The complaining is coming mostly from the area served by this press and it is unfortunate that when and if it comes back to haunt you, you will not understand just how depressing your attitudes are.
I do not see neighbor helping neighbor as long as there is an illegal immigrant within a hundred yards of your palazzi.


Posted by Sir Toppem Hat, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on May 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm

As the HSR project itself is indefensible, Mr. Gordon adresses it with a meandering rant touching on just about every topic imaginable except for the rail boondoggle in question. A telling look into the thought process and logic of an HSR supporter.


Posted by R.Gordon, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Thrilling observation which gives you plenty of time not to answer one comment of my jabbering.
There just is no way to explain the selfishness from Toppem Hats like yourself.
Is that your real name?


Posted by Sir Toppem Hat, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on May 12, 2010 at 9:21 am

Mr. Gordon:

Answer your comments? Perhaps one like "no quick face lift for you"? Or maybe you meant the one about "the banking which created all the money minded population (many lost)"?

Look, this discussion is about railroads, a topic about which I know far more than any armchair pundit tapping away in their darkened basement. I made my bones running a major railway, and from experience can tell you that this HSR project is doomed to fail. There never will be any train, just a long series of expensive studies, consultants, and fake CEOs feasting at the trough of the gullible taxpayer.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Dear R.Gordon - This man may be using an alias of Sir Toppem Hat. There was a character in the TV show "Thomas the Tank Engine" named that, and he too ran a railroad.

That reminds me of a common criticism that used be bandied about. A 19th century fellow wanting to criticize another's managerial skills would say: "That's no way to run a railroad."

Others along that line: "That's no way to run a hotel," and "That's no way to manage a baseball team," and "That's no way to build a fire."

I have never used the alias Sir Toppem Hat, by the way, so there's no way you can lump me in with that bunch.


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