News - February 24, 2010

Atherton OKs effort to reopen HSR lawsuit

The Atherton City Council has signed on to an effort to reopen a lawsuit against the proposed California high-speed rail project, in light of recently discovered information about ridership projections.

Atherton and Menlo Park joined a suit against the High-Speed Rail Authority last year, forcing the agency to reopen its environmental study of part of the route that would bring high-speed trains from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The judge presiding over the case did not, however, require the rail authority to revisit the decision to send trains along the Caltrain corridor, as plaintiffs had hoped.

At a closed session meeting on Feb. 17, the Atherton council authorized Oakland-based attorney Stuart Flashman to ask the Sacramento County Superior Court to reopen the case. The vote was 4-0, with Jim Dobbie absent.

The Menlo Park City Council is set to consider the topic at a closed session meeting set for Feb. 23.

Mr. Flashman said he began revisiting the case after new information came to light about the data on which the High-Speed Rail Authority based its ridership model. The information could have had a significant impact on the ridership projections, which in turn could have influenced the board's decision to run trains along the Pacheco Pass, rather than the Altamont Pass, Mr. Flashman maintained.

Rail officials first said the changes to the ridership model were too minor to warrant republication, then attributed the discrepancy between the published document and the new information Mr. Flashman referred to as a "typographical error."

"It's our understanding that the model used to generate the high-speed rail ridership forecasts — along with that model's supporting information — has all been publicly available since 2007," said Jeff Barker, deputy director of communications for the rail authority.


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