Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Palo Alto challenges California HSR plan

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Palo Alto, Calif., is hiring legal counsel to object to plans by the California High Speed Rail Authority to route trains along Caltrain right-of-way. The city council claims the authority’s 2008 environmental certification did not fully disclose the potential impact of high speed rail to neighborhoods along the route.

The move counters the city council’s endorsement of the HSR project last fall. "The more we've gotten into this, it's become clear there have been a number of procedural defects," said city council representative Larry Klein. "There was perhaps not as much disclosure asthere should have been. I think [the legal action] can help improve that process."

Nearby Menlo Park and Atherton earlier objected to the current HSR plans, filing suit last August.

The $44 billion HSR system would run from San Diego through Los Angeles to two northern termini, one at Sacramento, the state capital, and the other in San Francisco via San Jose (and Palo Alto). California voters last fall approved Proposition 1A, which generates more than $9.9 billion in state funding throughbond sales. Trains would operate at speeds of up to 220 mph over a system of 700 miles.

California’s two U.S. senators and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) subsequently pledged to seek federal dollars to support the project. Joined by others in the California congressional delegation, they submitted a letter last week to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood praising the Obama Administration's support for HSR and intercity rail, which "will help create thousands of high-paying jobs in California and across the country."