Thursday, August 27, 2009

High-speed rail slowed

By Jessica Bernstein-Wax
Bay Area News Group

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of Menlo Park, Atherton and environmental groups who challenged the decision to run high-speed trains through the Peninsula instead of the East Bay, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said today. The ruling means the California High-Speed Rail Authority needs to revisit using the Pacheco Pass route to get the bullet trains from the Bay Area to the Central Valley, according to a statement the High-Speed Rail Litigation Coalition released this afternoon. The alternative route, which would have sent the trains through the East Bay, was Altamont Pass.

Coalition member David Schonbrunn obtained a copy of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny's ruling while in the Capitol earlier today. Attorneys for both sides said they do not yet have a copy, and the ruling is not yet available on the court's Web site.

"The court concludes that the description of the alignment of the HSR tracks between San Jose and Gilroy was inadequate even for a programmatic EIR," the statement quoted the ruling as saying. "The lack of specificity in turn results in an inadequate discussion of the impacts of the Pacheco alignment alternative on surrounding businesses and residences which may be displaced, construction impacts on the Monterey Highway, and impacts on Union Pacific's use of its right-of-way and spurs and consequently its freight operations."

Oakland attorney Stuart Flashman, representing the petitioners, said that although his clients didn't win every point, Kenny's ruling was "convincing." 

"It's enough that it forces them to re-evaluate everything," Flashman said. "Particularly because (former California High-Speed Rail Authority chairman Quentin) Kopp is no longer in charge, and we've got someone from down south who's chairing the board, we may get a different perspective. We had two people in charge of the board who were very big San Jose advocates."

Deputy Attorney General Danae Aitchison, one of the attorneys representing the rail authority, said she couldn't comment on the ruling because she hadn't seen it. "We have no information yet, so we have no comment," Aitchison said.

Judge Kenny's decision:

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At 4:04 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Screwing up rail speeds for a tiny minority of NIMBYs.

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The high-speed rail hasn't been built yet, Murph. Locating the line will be a difficult task, since, as the decision tells us, Union Pacific will not allow the new system to use its right-of-way, which the state was counting on for part of the line. The state should have recirculated the EIR when they learned about that, but they didn't.

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

I find it hard to be upset about this. Count me among those who have always been opposed to the Pacheco alignment, which passes through an environmentally-sensitive area and cuts the entire East Bay out of the picture (as well as Stockton).

The entire purpose of the Pacheco alignment was to aggrandize San Jose by making sure a train passed through town every 15 minutes instead of every 25. These are the sort of measures necessary for an overgrown suburb to feel like it's a big boy and get the respect it deserves! San Jose's inferiority complex fed into the poor decision-making that will probably doom HSR. Pauvre San Jose... will the biggest city in the Bay Area ever feel like a big city? Perhaps that gold-plated $7 billion BART extension will help... that way they can claim they have a "subway"... (one that bypasses all the major employment centers of Fremont and E. San Jose too, christ...)

If we can get a different alignment out of this, it will solve multiple problems... the East Bay will be served by HSR, the Dumbarton rail bridge will be rehabbed, ACE will get new track and be sped up to more than 4x-daily service, and the towns on the Peninsula that have whined the loudest will be bypassed by the train they don't want.

I don't see the problem. I just hope the HSR authority sees the light and changes their plans.

At 5:12 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Locating the line will be a difficult task, since, as the decision tells us, Union Pacific will not allow the new system to use its right-of-way, which the state was counting on for part of the line.

This area is in the middle of nowhere. It's not like they are relocating it in the middle of Menlo Park.

Even before the ruling, the Authority had "accepted the fact that we can't use the UP right of way," said Morshed. "We're proceeding accordingly. So the fact that they're saying, 'Well, how are you going to handle UP right of way,' is something we've been doing, so it's not something new."

If you read it, the judge agreed with practically everything we did. All the issues that the people who sued us raised, the judge found them to be invalid. So, it's just these two issues that the judge said we need to do more work on, and we'll be happy to do that. But fundamentally, our big fundamental issue is, the judge agreed with us."

"For those who wanted us to basically give up on Pacheco and go back and look at Altamont, the judge didn't give them that."

At 5:14 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"ACE will get new track and be sped up to more than 4x-daily service"

No matter what they won't be using the ACE route. You can't run HSR down Niles Canyon.


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