Peninsula Cities Consortium issues high-speed rail challenge: 'build it right or not at all'


"Build right or not at all," Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and two other cities in the Peninsula Cities Consortium have challenged the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The cities issued a statement Monday calling on the authority to "step back and resolve troublesome issues" with the rail project days after an independent review uncovered flaws in the ridership projections for the proposed line.

They said the authority has "an enormous credibility problem" because of recent seriously critical analyses by state officials and, most recently, a professional group commissioned by the state Legislature.

The consortium, which has representatives of Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Burlingame and Belmont, alleged that the authority is more focused on meeting deadlines for federal-stimulus funding than on building a system that works.

Rich Cline, mayor of Menlo Park and chair of the consortium, said in the statement that the cities are concerned that the "key problems may not be resolved because of the intense pressure being exerted by the Authority's desire to qualify for federal stimulus funding. The rail authority has to begin construction on the San Francisco-to-San Jose line by September 2012 to qualify California for a $2.25 billion grant.

"Common sense is absent from the high-speed rail discussion," Mr. Cline said. "Right now the Authority plans to select a final alignment and release its draft environmental impact report by December of this year under an extremely rushed project schedule that is dictated solely by the desire for federal funds."

Federal funds play a prominent role in the authority's plan to fund the project, which carries an estimated price tag of about $43 billion. The authority expects to get about $17 billion in federal grants for the project, though so far only $2.25 billion has been committed.

California voters also approved $9.95 billion in state funds for high-speed rail and related improvements in 2008 when they passed Proposition 1A.

But many of the project's earliest supporters have lashed out at the authority over the past year about what they perceive to be the agency's inadequate outreach and shoddy planning.

Two of the consortium partners, Menlo Park and Atherton, had joined a coalition of nonprofit groups in challenging the rail authority's selection of Pacheco Pass over the Altamont Pass as the preferred route for the new line.

The authority's ridership projections took a hit last week when the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that the models these projections were based on were flawed and unreliable as a basis for decision-making.

The latest review, coupled with recent critical reports from the Office of the State Auditor and the Legislative Analysts Office, has created a "credibility problem" for the rail authority, Mr. Cline said. He also challenged the authority's assertion that the system, once built, would be financially self-sustaining.

"The project is suffering from an enormous credibility problem, due to its widely criticized business plan, faulty ridership numbers and the absence of funding to carry out the project statewide -- let alone offer realistic alternatives for the section planned on the Peninsula," Mr. Cline said.

"There also is no stated plan for paying to operate high-speed rail once it is built, and we fear local taxpayers may be left holding the bag."

● Report: High-speed rail ridership data flawed

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Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2010 at 11:46 am

R.GORDON is a registered user.

IT WILL HAPPEN no matter what protests from the few people who live in the Peninsula object.

Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 6, 2010 at 10:20 pm

The only guarantees here are:

1. No matter how much it costs, some kind of crippled system will stagger over the finish line, after maximum revenue extraction by connected developers and unions.
2. The revenue targets will be missed disastrously.
3. The trains will be above ground.
4. The taxpayers are holding the bag.

Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2010 at 9:57 am

R.GORDON is a registered user.

IF TESLA can get a loan for a luxury car, then the citizens of California deserve NO argument for hundreds of thousands of jobs.
These are not FAVORED communities.
Most of the 15 million dollar homes will not be affected and they don't care.....they only like to pay to goad you into thinking you live in an "elite community".....IT AIN'T.

Like this comment
Posted by AMAZED
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2010 at 8:47 am

When we employed BLACK and CHINESE labor to die by the thousands to build a transcontinental railway, the majority of the white population watched.
This time, they gripe over real estata values and mourn having gotten rid of Mexican workers.
"GIVE ME YOUR TIRED AND YOUR POOR" is says somewhere.
well, everyone is getting poorer and they may have to cut their grasses themselves or buy artificial turf and plant plastic tulips like LUCY.

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