News - April 21, 2010

Menlo Park, Atherton reaffirm objections to California high-speed-rail review

by Sean Howell

Menlo Park and Atherton are poised to reaffirm their objections to the environmental review of the California high-speed rail project, as the cities gear up for a possible second round in the battle over the state-mandated review process.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency charged with overseeing the project, is working to re-certify the "project-level" environmental impact report for the Bay Area at the request of a Superior Court judge, following a lawsuit joined by Atherton and Menlo Park. The cities are commenting on that document for a second time through that process.

In draft letters, both jurisdictions reiterate most of their complaints about the original environmental review. While the rail agency asked that comments focus only on the sections of the document that were revised as a result of the lawsuit, mostly in areas south of Gilroy, Atherton and Menlo Park both ask the rail agency to revisit the analysis of how high-speed trains would run along the Caltrain corridor.

In Atherton's letter, penned by Public Works Director Duncan Jones, the town argues that the new document does not completely address the court ruling, because it doesn't adequately analyze potential eminent domain takings on the Peninsula, and does not adequately address vibration impacts.

The town calls the document's treatment of land-use impacts "half-hearted," asking for more detail. In its letter, Menlo Park asks for an analysis of impacts to properties outside the 50-foot radius considered in the environmental review.

Atherton also attached to its letter detailed studies of alternatives to the Caltrain route, asking that the rail agency reconsider those alternatives.

Meanwhile, the town plans to join in re-filing the lawsuit that prompted the rail agency to revise the environmental impact report, citing new information about the way in which the agency conducted its ridership study.

Menlo Park's City Council will discuss whether the city will join the lawsuit at its meeting Tuesday, April 20. The council could approve the letter to the rail agency at the same meeting.

Atherton's City Council will consider the town's letter to the rail agency at its meeting Wednesday, April 21. At its March 17 meeting, the council unanimously voted to retain a lobbyist who is also advocating for Menlo Park and Palo Alto on high-speed rail issues.


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