By Barbara Wood
Special to the Almanac
Despite recently announced changes in the plans for high-speed rail in California that lower the price and address other Peninsula cities' concerns, Menlo Park's City Council agreed in an April 9 closed session meeting to continue a lawsuit it has filed with Atherton and Palo Alto against the California High Speed Rail Authority.
In November a judge delivered a mixed ruling on the suit, which was filed under the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The ruling agreed with the Peninsula cities that the EIR's traffic analysis needs work.
According to Menlo Park Public Works director Chip Taylor, however, the local cities also want the EIR to re-examine the projected ridership numbers, the effect of a two-track system that would combine Caltrain with new high-speed trains, and the effect of elevated tracks on the areas, such as Menlo Park, that they would pass through.
A press release issued after the meeting said the council members believe "the newly proposed 'blended system' serves as a promising long-term solution as it would improve the use of the existing right of way, provide electrification and potentially provide a quieter, more efficient system."
However, council members still fear that the more intensive four-track system that was originally proposed could still be built because that option is focused on in all the environmental documents for the rail project.
"None of the EIR versions have adequately considered or analyzed the 'blended' system set forth in the new business plan. In addition, the EIRs do not address the impact of having an elevated structure along the Peninsula," the press release states.
Mayor Kirsten Keith said in a statement that the city cannot fully support the project until the rail authority "provide(s) certainty that the four-track system is no longer under consideration, that the ridership study will be redone, and that the project will not be exempt from the current CEQA process."