I get it. We need more and better transit if we are to stave off the environmental catastrophe that global warming threatens. And a few years ago, before my election to the Menlo Park City Council, these arguments probably would have been enough to convince me to vote in favor of the bond measure. But I'm not supporting this measure because there is more to the story.
The city of Menlo Park recently joined the lawsuit challenging the High Speed Rail Authority's (HSRA) environmental impact report (EIR). We did so because the EIR did not address our concerns on the potential impacts to our city. Menlo Park has sent four different letters, beginning in 2004, requesting answers to our questions. The only answer that we have received is that our questions will be addressed in the next EIR — AFTER the $10 billion HSR bond vote. Joining the lawsuit appears to be the only way to get the HSRA to pay attention to our concerns.
The Menlo Park City Council has a right — no, an obligation — to question the effects that this project would have on our community. Our concerns are typical local land-use and quality-of-life issues. What is the projected footprint of the project? Will the train be elevated on a wall, dividing our town in half? What happens to the homes and businesses that border the tracks? Will any of our four crossings have to be closed? Can the train be put in a trench or underground? Where will the train line go during construction? How much say will Menlo Park and other local jurisdictions have in what happens in our community? Why can't the train stop in San Jose?
We asked these questions again at a recent study session on high-speed rail. Once again, we received no answers. Instead, the chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority, Quentin Kopp, called our study session "shabby" and "disrespectful." Since when is it shabby and disrespectful for a local entity to ask questions about a major project in its community? And why should it cost $10 billion dollars just to get the basic answers to our community concerns?
Call me a NIMBY if you must. But this is not a case of "Not In My Back Yard." It is a case of "What Will Be In My Backyard?"
The Menlo Park City Council serves Menlo Park. It is my imperative to put our city at the forefront. There is just too much at risk and too little information at this time.
Much more is to come. For now, I'm voting no.
Rich Cline is a Menlo Park council member.