Almanac

News - June 23, 2010

North Fair Oaks meets on state high-speed rail project

by Josh Falk

Representatives from the California High-Speed Rail Authority addressed residents' concerns at a North Fair Oaks Council meeting Thursday, June 17.

"What we're here to talk about tonight is what is important for North Fair Oaks," said Dominic Spaethling, a regional manager for the California High-Speed Rail Authority responsible for the San Francisco to San Jose corridor.

The high-speed rail system is planned to run along the Caltrain right-of-way and will "try to use existing infrastructure to the greatest extent possible," Mr. Spaethling said.

Mr. Spaethling addressed several local issues, including the noise and visual impact of the high-speed rail system, cyclist and pedestrian safety along the route, and the potential economic impact of the rail system on businesses and homes along the San Francisco-San Jose corridor.

Many residents at the meeting expressed concern about the potential impact of the high-speed rail system on North Fair Oaks and the greater Peninsula.

"What's in it for us?" asked Morton Frank, who suggested the High-Speed Rail Authority take a closer took at the eventual impact of the rail system on the local community. "How do you plan to integrate local public transportation?"

Mr. Frank said he thought the wealthy would benefit most from the implementation of a high-speed rail system at the expense of those with more modest incomes.

"The high-speed train seems to be totally oblivious to the needs of ordinary people," Mr. Frank said.

Laura Caplan, a member of the North Fair Oaks Council, responded more positively to the rail authority's proposals.

"I was very pleased that the high-speed rail folks seemed to really have listened to our concerns the last time they were here," Ms. Caplan said. She emphasized it would be important to integrate the high-speed rail system with other public transportation on the Peninsula, however.

Another member of the council, Juan de Leon, expressed concern that residents of North Fair Oaks do not turn out for these kinds of meetings in as great a number as in more wealthy communities. He said he attended a meeting in Atherton where the turnout was three times that of Thursday's North Fair Oaks meeting.

"This is a community that doesn't get out and isn't vocal," Mr. de Leon said.

John Maulbetsch, an Atherton resident at the North Fair Oaks meeting, was firmly opposed to building the high-speed rail line along the Peninsula.

"I think it doesn't belong on the Caltrain corridor," Mr. Maulbetsch said. "The benefits are overstated and the costs are understated."

"I think it's a colossally bad idea for the Peninsula," he said.

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