Menlo Park joins high-speed rail lawsuit


Like an endless loop, Menlo Park City Council voted 4-0 on Tuesday (Sept. 21) to join neighboring cities in a lawsuit against the state high-speed rail authority.

Councilman Andy Cohen recused himself due to a conflict of interest -- his home may be impacted by the project's construction.

Palo Alto and Atherton decided earlier this week to file the suit, which challenges the project's environmental impact report (EIR) certification.

An earlier lawsuit filed two years ago also attacked the project's environmental impact report. A judge ruled in August 2009 that the rail authority did need to revise the portions evaluating land use, right-of-way impacts, and vibration effects.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority revised the report to address those areas and released a new, final version on Aug. 20, 2010 -- which is now facing another legal battle.

Attorney Stuart Flashman, who represents the cities, said this lawsuit examines different aspects of the project from the previous one, such as widening its right-of-way and eliminating tunnels as an option for the Peninsula segment.

"Most important of these is the discovery that the published ridership model was not the model used in the prior EIR, and the flaws subsequently found in that ridership model that make its validity very questionable," Mr. Flashman said. "All of this should have changed the impact analysis, but the authority chose to ignore the information."

He will file the suit in Sacramento Superior Court by Oct. 4, he said.

Not everyone believes another lawsuit is the right way to go. Former Menlo Park mayor Steve Schmidt suggested forming a high-speed rail commission, describing the city's latest legal action as "little more than harassment of the high-speed rail authority."

At last night's meeting, Mr. Schmidt thanked the project's critics for highlighting problems that the planning process needs to address, but also discussed the benefits of high-speed rail.

Those benefits include reduced pollution and traffic, and increased pedestrian safety, he said.

"How it travels through our city needs to be dealt with now. I encourage the council to use a rational and realistic approach," he said.

"Being litigants and part of a negative chorus is not good enough. We need also to be positive, creative and eventually prepared for a likely outcome that can benefit the region and Menlo Park."

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Like this comment
Posted by Osman
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 22, 2010 at 10:15 am

This lawsuit is another waste of taxpayer money. Stop whining and start cooperating with the Rail Agency, and you WILL build it for less $$.

Like this comment
Posted by Wake Up
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm

If the goal of another lawsuit is to force the High Speed Rail Authority to change the route back to the Altamont Pass, that route puts the train on a rail bridge across the bay and behind Suburban Park and Lorelei Manor in Menlo Park. The battle will then be lead by the residents in those neighborhoods just as it was when the Dumbarton Express was a being considered. New soldiers but the same arguments about the HSRA's process, procedures, false information, wasteful expenditures of taxpayer's money, insensitivity and greed. All these sentiments may be valid but they don't get to the heart of the issue.

Can any of today's HSR foes just be honest and say, "I hate the train. It's near my house. I'm scared. I'm angry. Make it go away. Kill it." I can respect these feelings. They're honest and from the gut.

So, if the folks who live near the Caltrain right-of-way get their way, be prepared for a new set of neighborhood NIMBYs to take up the fight. If Suburban Park and Lorelei Manor residents are reading this, join the discussion now before this HSR fight is your fight.

Like this comment
Posted by Smart Move
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 22, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I applaud our City Council for taking a unanimous stand and joining the lawsuit. Besides lip service, the CHSRA has done nothing to indicate that they give a hoot about our city or others along the line (the exception being SF, which is getting a fancy, underground terminal, which was recently celebrated by local big-wigs, Kopp, Pelosi and Boxer). CHSR's new CEO was brought on board to get the train built for the lowest cost possible, regardless of the havoc and blight it will create along the way. His job is to get it done, and the heck with any other concerns. In practical terms, our options are few. Citizens and cities along the way route need to be clear and forceful in order to have any impact whatsoever with the Authority. (And it does behave like an authority.) When our cities are united in their stance, they are more difficult to ignore or be steamrolled. Litigation needs to be pursued.

Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm

There's a pretty easy solution to all of this. Have the HSR terminate in San Jose, and then have our existing infrastructure take the rest of the load (CalTrain, light rail and BART). The way it's going right now, we'll never see HSR in our lifetime otherwise.

Like this comment
Posted by New In Town
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm

This law suit seems very pointless to me. The only possible result, if this litigation is successful, is that the Rail Authority will need to spend more money conducting new analysis, etc. I don't think it's realistic that the numbers will come out shockingly different that they will decide to change the current plan.

It's time to look at the greater benefits, stop the selfish "Not in my backyard" attitude, and start cooperating to make this happen, not let it languish in courts for years to come.

Like this comment
Posted by reallywakeup
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Nothing you people do will stop this much needed project..your fears are nothing but overblown opinions since that railroad has been there for over 100 years..All the fearmongering and threats are a big laugh to read!

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 22, 2010 at 1:42 pm

"Can any of today's HSR foes just be honest and say, "I hate the train. It's near my house. I'm scared. I'm angry. Make it go away. Kill it." I can respect these feelings. They're honest and from the gut."

I can only speak for myself and none of the above applies. I am against HSR because it is a boondoggle. It will be guaranteed to cost more than it was sold as costing. It will not have the ridership they claimed it would have. This leads to me, the taxpayer being left holding the bag. HSR will end up having to be subsidized and I as a taxpayer fully expect when that becomes apparent they will raise my taxes or charge me some type of "fee" or find any of several other ways to extract money from me to pay for a project I don't want and damn well will not use. For the record I live near teh Caltrain right of way and I have no problem with trains. I have a problem with being screwed.

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

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