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High Speed Rail promoters knocking on your door

Original post made by Morris Brown, Menlo Park: Park Forest, on Jul 26, 2008

We have been asked by several locals “ who are these young people coming around, knocking on our doors and promoting the High Speed Rail project?”

They are college students who have been recruited for paid summer jobs to promote this project. Their employer is the “California Public Interest Research Group” (CALPIRG).

CALPIRG claims to “take on powerful interests on behalf of Californians, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being.”

Well in this case CALPIRG has been paid to hire these students with a goal that 100,000 California voters will be personally contacted before the Nov. 2008 election. Who is funding this effort? Why the very same powerful interests CALPIRG claims to oppose. The funding is coming from a consortium of construction firms, venture capitalists, construction unions etc.

What does this project mean for Menlo Park, Atherton and other cities along the peninsula?

It means four (4) tracks running through our cities, requiring a minimum of 100 feet of corridor on which CalTrain currently has only 60 -65 feet in many portions.

It means eminent domain proceedings to acquire additional space.

It means tracks raised on a 15 foot high berm and electrical catenaries another 20 feet above that.

It means cutting hundreds of trees along the tracks.

It means approval of a project that will cost by their own estimates $45 billion. With debt service costs and escalated construction costs sure to evolve, the final cost will be well above $100 billion.

So this is what these young faces are promoting.

For more information visit

Morris Brown
Stone Pine Lane
Menlo Park

Comments (3)

Like this comment
Posted by Phineas Baxandall
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2008 at 10:20 pm

That is completely inaccurate. Nobody pays CALPIRG to canvass on issues. Please check your facts before making accusations. High speed rail will prevent highway widening, airport expansion, and huge amounts of global warming pollution. Since it will be electrically powered, there won't even be emissions along the tracks.

Like this comment
Posted by boondoggler
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 27, 2008 at 9:54 am

High speed rail will have zero effect on highway widening or pollution because it won't impact local driving, which is what produces 99% of the congestion. And the comment about decreasing the need for airport expansion is laughable given that flights between the two metropolitan areas constitute only a tiny percentage of all air travel.

High speed rail will destroy the character of the mid-peninsula and cause housing values to plummet. "Phineas," I assume your "other community" is one that will not be affected by this devastation. Although this may be a worthwhile project (I don't agree, but that is a topic for another discussion) it is not one that should be placed in the middle of a densely inhabited urban area.

Morris, I recommend you post this on the Palo Alto TownSquare, where the discussion might get some traction.

Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 28, 2008 at 8:49 am

More about the "door knockers." Here is an excerpt from a document from CALPIRG, which has been sending college students on a mission of converting the heathen to love and vote for the California High-Speed Train.

Explaining the Trend, Assessing the Facts, and Protecting the Public
Calpirg Education Fund
Written by Phineas Baxandall, Ph.D.
Senior Analyst for Tax and Budget Policy
December, 2007

They are describing the evils of highway privatization. And, I certainly agree with many of their premises.

Below they list seven ways to prevent the problems of privatization. What I want to know from CALPIRG is why they are such passionate advocates of the high-speed train, when these principles, which they espouse, are not in effect for this particular train project. To drag in a cliche here: What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

CALPIRG makes "Standing up to Powerful Interests" it's centerpiece mission.
Why isn't it standing up to the CHSRA or Parsons Brinckerhoff?

While it is true that the HST is not intended as a private enterprise, it is intended, according to the Governor, to be a public-private partnership. Does that mean that the State government will have to support the train's operation and maintenance? The authority says no. But, how do we know? Without clear "public control, complete transparency, full accountability" -- all now absent in the train bond issue -- we are headed for the same disaster that CALPIRG says it opposes in highway privatization which, by the way, I also oppose.


"Basic public interest principles can protect
against bad privatization deals. The
following seven guidelines can help public
officials spot a lemon of a privatization deal,
one that does not adhere to the following

• Public control retained over decisions
about transportation planning and
management without financial penalties;

• Fair value guaranteed so future toll
revenues won’t be sold off at a discount.
Any upfront payment must exceed
what a public entity could deliver,
and windfall revenues must be shared
if future traffic exceeds projections;

• No deal longer than 30 years because
of uncertainty over future conditions
and because the risks of a bad
deal grow exponentially over time;

• State-of-the-art maintenance and
safety standards instead of statewide

• Complete transparency to ensure
proper process;

• Full accountability in which the
Legislature must approve the terms
of a final deal, not just approve that a
deal be negotiated; and

• No budget gimmicks because a
deal must make long-term budgetary
sense, not just help in the short term.
Transparency and accountability will
force public officials to face difficult questions."

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