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Guest opinion: A juggernaut heading our way

Original post made by Postman, another community, on Aug 13, 2010

Rich Cline is mayor of Menlo Park and chairman of the Peninsula Cities Consortium, a group of five cities formed to deal with high-speed rail issues. This guest opinion appeared in the Aug. 11 issue of The Almanac.

By Rich Cline

On Aug. 5, after a five-hour California High Speed Rail Authority board meeting in San Francisco, which included dozens of comments from concerned citizens along the Peninsula and in Menlo Park, rail authority board member Rod Diridon looked out at the audience and proclaimed high-speed rail a virtual lock to come up the Peninsula. He did not address how it would come, or how it would be funded, but he said it was coming and that we residents had better get used to the idea.

The idea we need to get used to is this: A four-track-wide system will run through Menlo Park up the Caltrain right-of-way either at 45 feet above the ground or in an open trench just below grade. At the board meeting last week, a new report out on the Peninsula Rail Program, the local arm of the rail authority, projects a four-track system to be 80 feet wide, or the width of a six-lane freeway.

Today, there are sections along the Menlo Park Caltrain right-of-way that are only 65 feet or 75 feet wide. These areas, mostly north of the station, would require adjacent land use and we still have no answer as to how that extra land would be acquired by the authority. Needless to say, residents and business owners like Roger Reynolds Nursery have reason to be very concerned.

The proposed four-track station footprint also increases dramatically to 110 feet wide, which would locate passenger platforms where parking for our current Caltrain train station is located. The passenger platform on the east side of the station will be pushed out into one lane of Alma Street.

It is not difficult to visualize the dreadful impact of an 80-foot wide and 45-foot high track system running through the heart of our downtown community. It is also not hard to imagine the profound improvement if all trains were put below grade and every street crossing was separated from the tracks. That would mean the end of cars and trains sharing intersections. We wouldn't see the trains. The horns and diesel engines would be eliminated and we would be able to connect our town hall and Burgess Park with our downtown and walk and bike more freely.

This is the great tension that high-speed rail brings to many communities like Menlo Park. Our city could possibly get grade separations for all of our four street crossings and the diesel trains and the horns are gone forever.

But Menlo Park could also be scarred forever if the rail authority was able to build it up high on the cheap. And many businesses and homes will be lost.

There are larger issues to be sure. Challenges around funding, ridership projections and route selections continue to haunt the rail authority. The potential job creation is another major factor debated locally and around the state.

But for now, we know what is coming and if you believe the rail authority, we are down to two alternatives: another freeway running through our community or the elimination of "the train" and all its noise and pollution forever.

It is time for Menlo Park to demand this train be put underground or put back on the shelf.

Comments (17)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2010 at 9:45 am

Just say No to HSR in San Mateo County.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:22 am

Cline states:"It is time for Menlo Park to demand this train be put underground or put back on the shelf."

Negotiating with the HSRA is futile - strange that our elected leaders don't understand how they have been totally ignored.

Just step up to the plate like the City of Orange did as say NO to HSR.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:38 am

HSR was approved by a ballot proposition, wasn't it?

I'm not sure that elected officials can do very much except delay it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:44 am

HSR absolutely needs LOTS of Federal funding. IF cities all along the route came out, as did Orange, as being totally against HSR it is very unlikely that there will be any Federal funding.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:34 am

POGO -- The legislature can certainly stop the project. There are numerous conditions in Prop 1A which must be met and have not been met that would indicate the project should be killed.

The Governor appoints 5 members of the 9 member board. He certainly can stop the project.

Thus far the underlying theme expressed by the leadership of the Cities along the Peninsula has been that HSR is good for the State; HSR must come through our communities such that it will not be destructive.

This project has never been good for the State. It has been a boondoggle from the very beginning. Up here in the North, it has been controlled by Judge Kopp and Rod Diridon, representing political interests in SF and San Jose.

Passage of Prop 1A was achieved only with devious methods, including withholding a mandated business plan, and being, to say the least, obscure about how the train would pass through local communities. They were also promising 117 to 120 million passengers and $55 tickets, numbers which they have now been forced to admit were false.

Palo Alto is a prime example of how their council was completely "taken in" by false promises. Only after the election did they learn that the Authority (CHSRA), had no intention of negotiating reasonable options for their city.

In spite of what should have long ago been obvious, the Cities continued to try and find acceptable solutions to their concerns.

Only now, in the last month, has it finally become obvious that their concerns will not be met and a much more strident approach must be taken.

The City of Orange took the first really major step by flatly calling for killing the whole project. The Cities here should do the same.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Is there a way to take another vote of the people? At least in our own town, but ideally MP and other peninsula cities?

Given what is clear now, about the route and the misinformation about ridership and costs,I sincerely doubt the vote would come out the same way. In fact, the vote taken before should be declared invalid because it was based on information that has changed considerably.

Is there any way to show the lack of support of the people?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Mr. Brown -

I am totally against HSR. Flights leave about every 20 minutes from several Bay Area airports (Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose) to several Southern California airports (Los Angeles, Burbank, Orange County, Long Beach, San Diego, etc.) and costs as little as $39.

Tell me why I would want to take a train that takes twice as long, goes fewer places, is less convenient, has fewer departures, and costs more?

I always thought that when a ballot initiative is approved - such as spending $10 billion on stem cell research - that there is remarkably little the legislature can do to stop it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 4:27 pm

POGO

Prop 1A / AB-3034 is quite different in that conditions such as matching funds from sources other than the bond funds must be secured, or bond funds cannot be spent. That's only one of many.

As finally passed, Prop 1A contained some pretty good oversight, almost all due to the efforts of Senator Alan Lowenthal, who although he has been a supporter of HSR, and a Democrat, insisted that strict oversight be in place on this mega project. So every year the Authority has to propose a budget and that budget must be approved by the State legislature. No budget, no project -- its that simple.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:04 pm

The voters approved HSR. Cline et al. continue to ignore the people.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:07 pm

The voters barely approved HSR and if it were on the ballot today it would fail by a big margin. Why? Because voters now know that it will cost much more than originally planned, will run huge deficits and will literally tear our communities apart.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 13, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Steve said "Cline et al. continue to ignore the people."

Duh. Just like all other elected officials...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 14, 2010 at 6:38 am

Even a stopped watch is correct twice a day. So Cline finally gets one right. Is this supposed to excuse his indecisiveness on almost all other issues except those that unjustly enrich the unions at the expense of the Menlo Park residents?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 14, 2010 at 9:29 am

HSR is just a bad idea for this state. Now that people have been enlightened to its costs, they would not vote for it. WE need to lobby the legislature to stop spending money the state doesn't have and tell the federal government thank you but no thanks.

Why should we keep spending money on sink holes? We have an opportunity to be smart and stop this train!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 11:57 am

R.GORDON is a registered user.

The battle is LOST............
The HSR is the best thing to happen to California in the past 12 years and all of you are groussing over a deal which is as good as done.
Now live with it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 14, 2010 at 12:27 pm

R. Gordon states:" all of you are groussing over a deal which is as good as done.

Now live with it."

Sorry, that is not what democracy is all about. The citizens voted, barely, to authorize HSR but they and their elected representatives still have to vote to FUND HSR. I suggest that the votes for continued funding will NOT occur as more and more citizens realize that this project is much more costly than originally proposed, will run huge operating deficits and will literally tear our communities apart.

We will not "live with it".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tell us why?
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 14, 2010 at 12:33 pm

R. Gordon, you seem to be a wealth of knowledge. Tell us why you believe "HSR is the best thing to happen to California". Is it the outrageous costs that we will all incur? Is it the money taken away from our state's schools? Is it the blighted 100 foot divide that will run thru the middle of the peninsula? You, my friend, are just some angry guy that doesn't like residents of Menlo Park and/or Atherton. Why don't you state something that has some thought behind it, versus anger.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 6:17 pm

San Mateo County Kill HSR.


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