New HSR group focuses on Caltrain corridor

Burlingame: Project has a lot of political force; smart for cities to get involved

Joining the alphabet soup of groups scrutinizing high-speed rail along the Peninsula is the San Mateo Rail Corridor Partnership, or SMRCP for short.

Advocates say it's meant to fill a void in the discussion by concentrating on high-speed rail within the Caltrain corridor, a topic they say is overlooked by the most visible regional coalition, the Peninsula Cities Consortium (PCC).

So far, San Mateo, Millbrae, Redwood City, South San Francisco, and Burlingame have signed on to SMRCP. "Some of (the PCC) members oppose the use of the Caltrain corridor, so their focus is on alternative routes, the ridership study, and business plan," said Larry Patterson, director of public works for San Mateo and spokesman for SMRCP.

Its counterpart, the PCC, consists of five elected officials from Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto, Burlingame and Belmont -- cities that would be heavily impacted by construction of high-speed rail.

The groups aren't mutually exclusive, according to Mr. Patterson, a view echoed by Burlingame's mayor, Terry Nagel, who represents the only city currently participating in both groups.

"I have consistently urged council members to attend both PCC and the San Mateo-led partnership meetings because I believe the cities along the Caltrain corridor need to look each other in the eye and figure out which forum and what process will help all of us agree on a transportation solution that works for everyone," Ms. Nagel said.

But other members of the consortium wonder why another high-speed rail group is necessary. Menlo Park's mayor, Rich Cline, who recently finished a term as PCC chair, said the other cities were invited "many times over" to join in the pre-existing regional organization, but refused.

"Now, when it seems there is air cover to take a more critical stance, those city leaders come out and ask us to mandate that (high-speed rail) will come up the Caltrain right of way?" Mayor Cline said. "I just feel like they are missing the point. Why predetermine a route when we don't have the proper data and we have no commitment that we will ever get it?"

Ms. Nagel said the point is that the Caltrain corridor segment proposal is moving ahead.

"As long as there's a live project that they're forging ahead on, we need to be at the table. That doesn't mean we aren't looking for alternatives," she said. "A lot of things could happen to derail that project; there's a million reasons that this might not happen. But right now it's going forward and has a lot of political force. It's smart for the cities to get involved."

Down the road, the two groups might consolidate. It has been all too easy, according to Ms. Nagel, for larger cities like San Francisco and San Jose to divide and conquer their smaller neighbors along the Peninsula. "Either you get what people decide they're going to give you, or you go forward and get what you want. Politically it's really dumb if we don't unite."

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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 4, 2011 at 11:28 am

Yes, Terry Nagel is correct. HSR is still on the table for the Caltrain corridor. But, it’s not on the table for negotiation; it never has been. Believing this is delusory.

And that’s the central point here. If you want HSR, there's really not much to do. If you don't, you have to stand up and be counted. There is no in-between.

Can you imagine any circumstances where CEO Van Ark will say, “OK, cities on the Peninsula, we will build what you want, a full-bore tunnel with HSR in it for the length of the Caltrain corridor?”

But, even that doesn’t address the central issue that HSR cannot, under any circumstances, “be built right.” It’s like UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returning from Berlin in 1938 holding a treaty aloft and saying, “Peace in our time!” We know how that went.

What happened next was World War II. Will we reach such a comparable point of agreement with a ruthlessly determined rail authority that says it will accommodate us? Can’t happen! This rail situation is a microcosm of that former horrendous dynamic.

So, now what?

What both groups, the PCC and the newly formed SMRCP, should be doing is getting together and agreeing on one -- AND ONLY ONE -- position.


These corridor cities have collective jurisdiction over the rail corridor and, if they get together to speak with that one voice that they have been seeking for two years, and make it crystal clear to the CHSRA and the Governor (who has jurisdiction over this Board), NO HIGH-SPEED RAIL ON THE CALTRAIN CORRIDOR, there will be positive results.

The measure of effectiveness is determination. The cities should sue the JPB for full control over the corridor; they already own it. However, that requires cohones, which, as we know, are in short supply.

We have been calling for such a unified voice for over four years. It’s not too late. But it is too late to waffle, qualify, quibble, and play endless word-games with the rail authority.

Politicians of the cities along the Caltrain corridor. UNITE! Get some spine. For just this once, subordinate your personal political ambitions and take an uncompromising stand to project your cities. You can do this. Keep high-speed rail off the Caltrain corridor. You owe it to your collective constituencies.

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm

This first comment from Martin satisfies Godwin's Law right from the get-go, with no intervening discussion required. Impressive.

> that requires cohones

What you envision requires a whole lot more than cojones.

It requires the sleepy little community of San Francisco, where a $400 million hole is about to be dug any moment now for the HSR terminal, to come to its senses and ditch HSR.

It also requires AB3034 to be repealed or heavily modified.

Like this comment
Posted by Austen
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Now what? It was an election issue years ago to fund it:
to me, that means the voters have approved it. (If it is not affordable under the approved Bond Measure, then it should be dead.)
Now What?

Like this comment
Posted by E, Moritz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Is there any committee on the Peninsula that Terry Nagel has not joined?? :-)

Joining another group avoids taking a leadership position by stating firmly and publicly where you stand. Typical politician. Oh yes! Ms. Nagel is running for County Supervisor so she wants everybody's love and votes. And she certainly doesn't want to offend the unions that are supporting her. They want the jobs connected with building HSR, as long as they are required to be union jobs.

We've had enough politicians as supervisors. That's why we have a budget deficit of around $100 million and a pension system with an unfunded liability of $1 BILLION. We need LEADERS with a spine who will take a stand and let the voters know what the believe in...... other than "let's bring everybody together and talk, and talk, and talk, and talk.

Like this comment
Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Let us get this straight. The new group is the element that is dividing and conquering. This is a cover group for those that want high speed rail. That is why they are criticizing the groups that are fighting it. The groups will never unite, they represent the division. This new group is a cover for the Bay Area business council, MTC, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the other federal money drainers for self pocket lining. Do not trust this group. Do not believe their rhetoric. This entire mission is to discredit the groups fighting the corrupt, criminal Authority.

Jay Tulock, Vacaville

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Funny how the NIMBY's along the peninsula get upset when another group is forming that support HSR. Oh, "it doesn't make sense to form another group", bla bla bla. It makes perfect sense because people do want HSR up the Caltrain corridor to San Francisco.

It is the same old cities crying, kicking and screaming again because they will not get their way. Pathetic!

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm

It is astonishing to me that a number of local transit agencies have reduced service and in some cases, eliminated service and yet, HSR in Calif. is moving forward. It's absolutely mind-boggling. We can't get around many parts of the Bay Area on transit in less than two hrs. and yet, we'll be able to go down to LA in that time. Those governors who have rejected HSR funds truly care about their states and realize the consequences of the project. It is unbelievable that millions are being spent on promoting the project and yet, teachers are receiving pink slips. We have bridges that might not be upright after an earthquake but no money to fix them. But we have money to build a new project which will negatively impact all the communities up and down the Peninsula. It's insane.

Like this comment
Posted by cur1ous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 4, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Martin, do you ever wish you were born in another time, so you could have put a stop to ridiculous boondoggles like the Bay Bridge, or the Hoover Dam? Or stopped that Socialist Dwight Eisenhower from starting the Interstate Highway System? Or even further back, to help this country from ever even thinking about wasteful concepts like "investment" or "the greater good"?

[Portion removed; personal attack]

Like this comment
Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 4, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Henry Riggs is a registered user.

HSR is not one of the great projects of the early 20th century, which paid for themselves long ago. (Bay area bridge tolls primarily go to support ferries and busses.) HSR is a special animal, created on wildly fake ridership numbers and fantasy costs, even while ignoring the costs of all other worldwide high speed rail projects going through urban areas. And, sorry to spill the news but nearly the whole peninsula is now "urban" along the rail corridor. That's where our downtowns are.

High speed rail is a nice concept that just might work from LA as far as San Jose - I fell for it three years ago - but the salesmen sold "LA to SF" like a Hollywood script written at 40,000 feet without even looking at the land below, and it just doesn't work. Not even in the bubble economy of 2006 did this work. Only when the legislature grips this can a revised version, LA to SJ, come to be. Oh, it will still be a boondoggle, but it won't destroy multiple downtowns in a region where we actually happen to care.

The sooner we separate our hopes to electrify CalTrain from the HSR pipe dream the better.

Like this comment
Posted by Roxie Rorapaugh
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 5, 2011 at 12:05 am

We want the High Speed Rail project!!

Menlo Park voted yes on prop 1A for HSR by a large margin (57% to 43%). The rest of the state voted yes on the proposition (52.6% to 47.3%). San Mateo (61.6% to 38.9%) and Santa Clara (60.4% to 39.6%) Counties also voted yes for the High Speed Rail proposition.

California High Speed Rail will remove billions of tons of greenhouse gases and CO2 from our air every year, improving air quality so we can breathe and slowing possible climate changes. It will also save 12 billion barrels of oil every year, which just might save the world from other conflicts and oil spills. We are a city aware of the importance of protecting our environment and projects like California High Speed Rail are crucial to this. HSR would save travelers along the north south corridor or California much time, expense and trouble. This project would also create thousands of jobs and a time when they are needed to stimulate the economy. Federal funding is available to help California with this important project.

I'm glad this new group has been formed, Mayor Cline once told me he was not against High Speed Rail, just wanted to make sure it is implemented correctly. This is what the SMRCP will focus on, I hope he joins it instead of working with people who have decided that HSR should be cancelled, because it will not be cancelled too many people want it and the state needs it.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2011 at 7:53 am

Kopp leaves High-Speed Rail Board.
He took issue with how Taxpayer money was being spent by the authority.
He is urging Chief Executive Officer Roelof van Ark to TERMINATE a $9,000,000.00 contract with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.

"Ogilvy has charged the authority more than $2,400,000.00 for little more than a plan".

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Expert
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 5, 2011 at 3:43 pm

There's an old saying in computing, 'Garbage In- Garbage Out'. When you mislead the voters regarding what a bond measure represents, the votes are garbage and don't represent sentiment that would be with a better informed public.

As for "Mayor Cline once told me he was not against High Speed Rail, just wanted to make sure it is implemented correctly[.]", this is essentially the gibberish intended to make the questioner retreat thinking that a question was answered to their satisfaction, when in actuality, it wasn't and deserves followup questioning. Specifically "Implemented correctly" can mean almost anything, and most importantly, reveals the Cline is quite comfortable with cost overruns and operating deficits like all other major 'keep the serfs busy' projects.

Like this comment
Posted by Kreskin
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2011 at 4:45 pm

[Post removed. Posting under multiple names. ]

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 5, 2011 at 7:24 pm


when are you going to figure out "kreskin" and his many other pseudonyms is R Gordon? And delete his posts under multiple names as is your wont? It really isn't hard to figure out. Just read his postings. they're all pretty much the same. Even a child can figure it out. If you're going to enforce your "no multiple names posts" rule, please do so. Thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by RayofSunshine
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on May 1, 2011 at 5:11 pm

EXPERT~there you are! Finally, here is someone who asks not only thoughtful, but simply logical AND intelligent questions! Questions that need to be answered, not tossed aside and as we have seen,(we should not only be mad, but we need to refuse to listen to any of the ridiculous babble disguised by double speak! We NEED to start asking those same types of questions as Expert! IMAGINE what we can do IF WE ALL STICK TOGETHER! Perhaps the road will lead us to REPEAL this BOGUS Prop1A! "Together we stand~divided we fall" BRAVO Expert!

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

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