With Menlo Park and Atherton aboard, suit against high-speed rail could be filed this week


Never one to be left behind when it comes to high-speed-rail advocacy, the city of Menlo Park is joining several other plaintiffs, including the town of Atherton, in asking a judge to reopen a lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The suit, alleging that the rail agency did not adequately review the environmental impacts the system could have on the Peninsula as it passes along the Caltrain corridor, was originally decided in August 2009 by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny. Judge Kenny's ruling de-certified the environmental analysis document, but did not by and large fault the agency's environmental review of the Peninsula segment of the route, and did not order work on the project to stop.

Stuart Flashman, the attorney who filed the original lawsuit, began looking into the possibility of re-opening the suit in February, contending that the rail agency had withheld crucial information about how it arrived at an estimate of how many people would ride the train. That estimate, which rail critics have said shows a strangely high number of boardings in Gilroy, might have provided the rationale to send high-speed trains shooting along the Caltrain corridor, rather than the Altamont Pass, according to Mr. Flashman.

Menlo Park's City Council agreed with Mr. Flashman's assessment that ridership information had been "improperly withheld from the petitioners, the public, and the court," voting 4-0 in closed session to join the suit at its April 20 meeting, with Andy Cohen recused.

Councilman John Boyle, who dissented in the council's original decision to join the suit, voted to join this time around. He said his fundamental stance that high-speed rail might be a good thing for city because it would improve grade crossings hasn't changed. But he'd like to know whether the route selection would have been different, had the correct information been used to generate the ridership model.

"It does go, potentially, to the heart of the whole model: Did they pick the right route?" he said. "The public has a right to know how material this would have been."

Of the environmental and rail advocacy nonprofit groups that spearheaded the original lawsuit, all but the BayRail Alliance have decided to re-up, according to Mr. Flashman.

He intends to file a writ of error coram nobis in Sacramento County Superior Court early this week, asking Judge Kenny to revisit the suit based on the new information.

The rail agency first attributed the variance in the numbers to an immaterial typographical error, and later released a statement maintaining that all pertinent ridership information has been publicly available since 2007.

Also at its April 20 meeting, Menlo Park's council unanimously approved the wording of a comment letter to the rail agency on the environmental review process. The agency is re-circulating the initial environmental review, to comply with Judge Kenny's ruling.

Atherton's City Council unanimously approved the wording of its letter to the rail agency at its April 21 meeting.

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Like this comment
Posted by billy bob
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on May 21, 2010 at 9:33 am

Hooray for cars, congestion and global warming. Let's kill high speed rail and drive SUVs forever!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by no to boondoggles
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 21, 2010 at 9:49 am

Right. Because all the SUVs you see (a lot fewer than a decade ago, by the way) are being driven by people who are traveling to LA, not by parents taking their kids across town to go to school or soccer practice.

Like this comment
Posted by DThomas
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2010 at 11:14 am

Whenever someone doesn't want to respond to a legitimate comment, they shove their twitter, Ipad, Iphone kids in front of the subject and then ignore them when it comes to the realities of these brats lives of privilege and after that, pay their monthly gaming bills.
Soccer practice my derriere.

Like this comment
Posted by fix local transit
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 24, 2010 at 5:20 pm

HSR is not the answer to the problems of local or regional traffic congestion, or to get people out of cars, or to help the climate change problems. The reason is that it would not help local transit at all, which is where those problems are acute already and will only get worse. Local transit is almost nonexistent and service is deteriorating.

HSR would siphon transit money away from funding more important priorities such as local transit ... and education...

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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