A Superior Court judge has ruled against Atherton and other plaintiffs that had tried to stop progress on Caltrain's electrification project by claiming the project's environmental report was flawed.
The lawsuit, filed in February 2015 by Atherton, the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (a transit advocacy nonprofit) and the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail, argued that the electrification project and the state's high-speed-rail project were so closely tied that any environmental report needed to look at the possible impacts of both projects on the Peninsula.
Rail tracks run through the center of Atherton, just feet from town offices and residents' back yards, and the town has a long history of legal wrangles with Caltrain and against high-speed rail.
Most recently Atherton made part of the town a "quiet zone" where trains are not to blow their horns, something Caltrain had said for years was not possible.
Caltrain spokeswoman Jayme Ackemann said the judge's "ruling confirms what we already knew to be the case: Caltrain’s project is independent of the High Speed Rail project and therefore we have a valid, approved EIR (environmental impact report) that has fully investigated all of the electrification impacts and alternatives."
Ms. Ackemann, director of marketing and communications for Caltrain, said the agency did not make any concessions to Atherton as a result of the lawsuit.
She said construction activities for electrification will start in 2017 and by 2020 electric train service should be in operation.
The ruling by Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry P. Goode said high-speed rail and the electrification projects are separate projects. The lawsuit had argued that the electrification project couldn't take place without high-speed rail because funding that makes the electrification project possible comes from the California High Speed Rail Authority, and that the ultimate plan is for Caltrain and high-speed rail to share the rail tracks that run from San Francisco to San Jose.
"The Electrification Project can be implemented successfully even if the HSR project never takes another step forward," Judge Goode wrote. "It is a project of independent utility that Caltrain has been seeking to implement for nearly twenty-five years. The fact that CHSRA is willing to fund it does not change that."
Atherton City Attorney Bill Conners said it will be up to the council to review the decision and decide if it wants to appeal.